“Hold your candle high against domestic violence, against elder abuse, against child abuse, against gun violence,” Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ridley-Thomas implored the crowd of about 200 gathered at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. “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.”
Thus Supervisor Ridley-Thomas kicked off his candlelight vigil on April 4, the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Joined with the supervisor in the twilight tribute were Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and civil rights leader Rev. James Lawson, a longtime friend of King’s. The ceremony marked the end of the “Season for Nonviolence” and also served as a statement of hope and against all forms of violence.
The Season for Nonviolence was established by the grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi, Arun Gandhi, and is a yearly event celebrating the philosophies of the two best-known practitioners of nonviolence–Gandhi and King. The “Season” begins with the anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination on Jan. 30, and ends April 4, on the anniversary of King’s assassination.
Only in its 15th year, the Season has grown as a meaningful observance of the teachings of these men. It is anchored by a mission statement of principles and a commitment by participants to live their lives 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, a job and self-dignity. She noted that California ranks high in spending for prisons but 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, Conn., 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 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.