Photo caption: Representatives of awardee organizations, IRA-Mauritanie, HAKI Africa and MUHURI with Rev. James Lawson at the 2016 award ceremony. Photos courtesy of Ketakandriana Rafitoson, class of 2016.

Since 2011, ICNC presents the James Lawson Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Practice, Study or Reporting of Nonviolent Conflict to one or several recipients who have distinguished themselves by advancing “how nonviolent resistance can be developed, understood and explained. The 14 laureates to date represent a broad range of people with relationships to past and ongoing movements.”

Watch the full 2016 ceremony here:

A few words about the ceremony by Xavier Alpasa, class of 2016:

“I can imagine people growing up hearing about the legendary Martin Luther King and even memorizing the “I have a dream” lines, but never in my wildest dreams would I imagine encountering one of the key architects of his historic nonviolent tactics – the Dr. Rev. James Lawson.

Rev. Lawson has ‘gravitas.’ His presence commands reverence (reminding me of Francis of Assisi’s reminder “Preach, if necessary, speak”). With such innate power, one is just blown away with the wise and captivating words that come from this iconic figure in civil resistance. He was indeed a preacher par excellence, not only in matters of style but especially with his living witness.

It was then but fitting to name after him the awards to recognize inspirations and achievements in the field of nonviolent conflict.  

For 2016, I was deeply moved to learn of the stories of the awardees’ who exemplify what Rev. Lawson stands for. I still cannot believe that slavery is rampant in this day and age. Awardee organization IRA-Mauritanie is actively combating this reality. Kenya is known to be one of the most progressive countries in Africa, but I did not realize there would be so much oppression that even results in arrests and account freezing for awardee organizations MUHURI and HAKI Africa. True to the spirit of civil resistance, they would persevere.

This, this is what I bring with me as I join the ICNC Summer Institute Class of 2016 who are even more fired up now with all these encounters – of Rev. Lawson, of the awardees and the soul-stirring moments now etched in our hearts.

As we move back to our different struggles, individual and communal, I will always go back to these triumphs amidst suppression, manifestations of the power of the human spirit and no matter how faint or small it may be, the reality that social justice will prevail, no matter what. No matter what.”