In this Spotlight interview, I spoke with Christiana Green, the communications coordinator for the James Lawson Institute for the Research and Study of Nonviolent Movements. We discussed the legacy of Reverend James Lawson, the whitewashing of the civil rights movement, progressive organizing in the South, and how Christiana's faith inspires her work. Christiana is from Marietta, Georgia, and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She graduated from Belmont University in April 2021. Christiana has coordinated, participated in and spoken at nonviolent protests in the past two years.
There are two aspects of our conversation that really stuck out to me. The first was Christiana's powerful pushback against the notion that the nonviolence of the civil rights movement was a co-opt of white ideals, or was simply an appeal to the conscience of white people. These false notions reduce nonviolence to putting oneself through suffering for the white gaze, to sway the emotions of the oppressor. This narrative of the civil rights movement presents a fundamentally unappealing portrait of nonviolence and those of us who believe in the ability of nonviolence to be a radical force for change must push back against it. I also appreciate Christiana reframing my perception of the American South. Both Christiana and I were born and raised in the South, a region with a long history of oppression and injustice, manifest in slavery and Jim Crow. Yet Christiana also recognizes the South as an important site of progressive organizing. The Black Lives Matter leaders fighting against police brutality are the descendants- both literally and figuratively- of the civil rights activists before them. I think there's something profoundly beautiful about this idea of nonviolent resistance as an inheritance, passed down through the generations. Towards the end of the conversation, Christiana notes that she is committed to her nonviolence work, knowing that she may not see the fruits of her labor but those who come after her will. What a gorgeous vision of nonviolence, and what an antidote to despair. I found this conversation insightful and inspiring and I hope you do to.
Learn more about the James Lawson Institute for the Research and Study of Nonviolent Movements here https://divinity.vanderbilt.edu/jameslawsoninstitute.php
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