Season for Nonviolence Vigil

Gathering at the top of the beautiful Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook for a candlelight vigil hosted by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, more than 200 people, including Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and civil  rights leader Rev. James Lawson reflected on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death on April 4, 1968. The tribute, which took place at twilight, also marked the end of the Season for nonviolence and served as a statement of hope and against all forms of violence.

“Hold your candle high against domestic violence, against elder abuse, against child abuse, against gun violence,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas as the crowd, overlooking the  city lights below, raised their candles in unity. “We hold our candles high against all forms of violence.

“I echo Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words when he stated that nonviolence requires courage, intelligence and perseverance,” the Supervisor said, adding that Gandhi taught that “nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

The “Season for Nonviolence,” which was established by the grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi, Arun Gandhi, is a yearly event celebrating the philosophies and the two legendary practitioners of nonviolence: Gandhi and King. The “Season” begins with the anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination on January 30, and it ends April 4, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

Although the Season is only in its 15th year, it has been growing as a meaningful observance of the teachings of these great men. It is anchored by a mission, statement of principles and commitments by participants towards living in a nonviolent way.

Tanisha Denard of the Youth Justice Coalition, an advocacy group for incarcerated youth and their families, spoke  movingly of the need for all young people to be given a chance at a good education, at a job and self dignity. She noted that while California ranks high among other states in spending for prisons, it ranks near the bottom in educational spending.  The violence perpetrated by young people is symptomatic of their hopelessness, she said.

“We want to see youth centers and jobs,” she said.

In recent months, particularly after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut,  people across the nation have become increasingly aware of the havoc wreaked on our society by violence—especially gun violence. According to statistics, Americans are seven times more likely to die of homicides and 20 times more likely to die from shootings than their peers in comparable countries. On average, 32 people are murdered every day in the United States. About 100,000 Americans are shot or killed with a gun every year and 20,000 of those Americans are children and teens.

The  Rev. James Lawson, who studied the works of Gandhi, marched beside Martin Luther King and was there on the fateful day in Memphis when he was killed, urged a listeners to engage in a continuing “march” against violence.

“Gandhi left us a tremendous heritage when he told us to show our love in action and practice,” said Lawson. “You and I have the continuing task of helping this culture. We must continue to fight to dismantle this love of the gun and this mistrust of people. There cannot be a nation of peace until we are a nation of justice.”