If it seems that George Lakey has been at every pivot point of social change in the United States since the 1950s, that’s because it’s likely that he has.
The 85-year-old Quaker activist, educator and prolific author — who will be at Tsunami Books in support of his new memoir, Dancing With History: A Life for Peace and Justice, March 9 — was on the front lines in efforts to ban nuclear bombs in the late 1950s. That work, in addition to his anti-war activism in the 1960s during the Vietnam war, led him to help found the Movement for a New Society (MNS) in the 1970s, a network of autonomous groups working for a nonviolent revolution.
That was on top of A Quaker Action Group (AQAG), which Lakey helped form in 1966 after being heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement, once arrested at a sit-in in 1963. He was a trainer in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer movement as well. He co-authored his first book, A Manual for Direct Action, during this period, and it was widely used in the South by the civil rights movement.
Always joyful and always preaching nonviolence and education in the name of justice and peace, Lakey was ahead of his time on many levels.
He came out as gay in the early 1970s and was among the early national visionaries for the burgeoning LGBT movement. Later that decade, he co-organized Men Against Patriarchy, then a pioneering anti-sexism movement for men.
And in the 1980s, Lakey organized the Pennsylvania section of a national labor/community coalition named “Jobs with Peace,” an effort he directed for seven years.
In 2010, Lakey was named “Peace Educator of the Year” by the National Peace and Justice Studies Association.
Author George Lakey reads from his new book Dancing With History: A Life for Peace and Justice 5 to 6:30 pm Thursday, March 9, at Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette St. FREE.