Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, was honored with the Inaugural James M. Lawson, Jr. Humanitarian Award during Holman United Methodist Church’s 70th Anniversary Gala at the Omni Hotel on December 4.
Holman Senior Pastor Kelvin Sauls presided over the sold-out commemoration, which featured entertainment by the Holman Quartet, the Read Lead/Holman Freedom School Scholars, the Holman Singers featuring Linda Broadus-Miles and Christian comedian J-Red. Aundrae Russell, host of KJLH Radio’s Stella Award-winning program, “Spread the Word,” emceed the event.
Holman’s 70th Anniversary Gala and the Inaugural James M. Lawson, Jr. Humanitarian Award were the culmination of a year-long anniversary celebration, which featured many events including a luncheon honoring Holman associate pastors, a special Prayer Breakfast and the Leon Davis Memorial Golf Tournament. The James M. Lawson, Jr. Humanitarian Award was created to honor and acknowledge Reverend Lawson’s life’s work and his significant contribution to the Holman congregation, to the Methodist denomination and to the nation.
Reverend James M. Lawson, Jr. was called “the leading theorist and strategist of nonviolence in the world,” by Martin Luther King, Jr. whom he mentored in the practice of non-violent civil disobedience. While teaching in India in 1955, Lawson studied the life of Gandhi and his effective method of non-violent protest. When he returned to the United States, Lawson led workshops that taught these non-violent methods to King and many others including college students to prepare them for direct action – marches, boycotts, sit-ins and picketing.
Lawson coordinated the Freedom Riders, interracial groups of activists who rode interstate buses into the Deep South to exercise their civil rights under the Supreme Court’s anti-segregation rulings. They endured jailing and violence from mobs that included local police and the Ku Klux Klan. Years later, Lawson relocated to Los Angeles where he served as pastor of Holman United Methodist Church from 1974 to 1999.
Marian Wright Edelman was handpicked by Lawson to be the first recipient of the award named in his honor.
“One of the major reasons I am pleased that she is the first recipient of this award is because Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund offers Los Angeles and the nation a way through these tumultuous times to a time where equality, liberty, justice and access to opportunity becomes characteristic in the deep psyche of our nation,” said Lawson.
After the unveiling of the James M. Lawson, Jr., Humanitarian Award, Lawson remarked, “Marian Wright Edelman has put her finger, in my judgement, on what could save this nation more than anything going on in the world today . . . if every single child, no matter where they are or who they are, gets what the Children’s Defense Fund calls a healthy start, a head start, a fair start, a moral start, a safe start, we would change our nation.”
Mrs. Edelman acknowledged that being the recipient of the inaugural James M. Lawson, Jr. Humanitarian Award was truly an honor and due to Reverend Lawson’s legacy, one that held deep meaning for her. During her acceptance remarks, she voiced her concern over the growing level of children killed by gun violence.
“We’ve lost more children to gun violence in the last 25 years than we’ve lost in all the lynchings in American history. We’ve got to stop this because if we lose our children, we lose everything.
“This country is going to have to recognize that the greatest national security problem, the greatest national military threat and the great national economic threat doesn’t come from any external enemy. It comes from our failure to invest in our children. . . We didn’t come this far to go backwards. It’s time for Black folks to step it up. No one’s going to love our children like we do,” Edelman said.
Honorary co-chairs of Holman’s 70th Anniversary Gala were State Senator Holly Mitchell, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson. Event co-chairs were Dr. Rosa M. Hill and John E. Sweeney, Esq. Supporters included Congressmember Karen Bass and Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Bishop Minerva Carcano. Platinum sponsor of the event included AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper.
Internationally renowned artist Toni Scott created the James M. Lawson, Jr. Humanitarian Award.