Sunnylands Report Back By Lindsay Harper

Clarence B. Jones, President and CEO, The Gandhi King Institute, Lindsay Harper, Executive Director of Georgia WAND, Daniel Blackman, Senior Vice President for Environmental Affairs and Sustainability at CFBA, Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley 

As Georgia WAND’s Executive Director, I was invited to participate in an invitation-only retreat, which reflected on the lessons from the civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King and considered their applicability to the issue of race and nonviolent social change in America today. I was invited by the Gandhi King Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, whose mission is to illuminate and further the shared moral and strategic vision of Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   

While there, I engaged in a cross-generational dialogue with civil-rights era veterans to address how the current social justice movement should address the most urgent issues of today.  

The gathering took place at Sunnylands, the historic estate of Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg, in Rancho Mirage, California. The retreat was intimate by design, to facilitate deep conversation and make progress on complex challenges. As such, only a small number of individuals participated.  

The retreat offered intensive working sessions asking questions such as: what is the meaning of the movement today?  What is the meaning of MLK and nonviolent struggle in the present moment?  Where do we go from here?  At the request of the social justice leaders, the civil rights leaders agreed to share their stories and experiences, and also offered council.   

Attendees hear from Ambassador Andrew Young

The Sunnylands dialogue was convened in the spirit of a private retreat Dr. King organized, consisting of a small group of trusted advisers, at Dorchester Academy, near Savannah Georgia, January 10-12, in 1963.  The purpose of the Dorchester retreat was to accomplish a tough-minded, comprehensive strategic review. In that vein, the 2019 Sunnylands retreat sought to address fundamental strategic questions we face today:  Where do we go from here, chaos or community?  What must happen in this nation to realize the vision Dr. King shared with us?  And how do we get there?   

Participants contributed to and signed a joint statement, infused by the unique moral authority associated with Dr. King’s close colleagues and friends; and it was published and disseminated across the nation on January 15, 2019, Dr. King’s 90th birthday, and January 21, 2019, on the MLK holiday. 

To read the article published in the Washington Post, please click here

To read the open letter to which Georgia WAND is a signatory, please click here

To watch a commemorative video, please click here

For more information, send an email to Lindsay Harper at