Cecili Thompson Williams is the Director of Ploughshares Fund grantee and partner, Beyond the Bomb, where she leads a team of campaigners and activists mobilizing against the threat of nuclear war and weapons. She has nearly two decades of experience leading mission-driven campaigns with organizations including Amnesty International USA, RESULTS Educational Fund, and the National Partnership for Women & Families. She recently wrote an essay in our new report: "Nuclear Weapons and the Green New Deal". This interview is part of a series of interviews in which you can get to know the authors of the essays in this report, A New Vision: Gender. Justice. National Security.
How can nuclear war be avoided?
I believe that our best way to prevent nuclear war is to rid ourselves of nuclear weapons. However, that is a long process that will require the changing of hearts and minds around the world. So, we need to work incrementally and identify common ground where we are now. The best immediate step we can take is to adopt a No First Use policy and drive toward that becoming a global norm among nuclear armed states. If all nuclear states committed to No First Use, our chances of starting a nuclear war would be significantly decreased.
What inspires you to continue this work?
I am inspired by the immense potential for successful change that will help protect the future for my children. We have seen just a massive shift in the public discourse on this issue in just the past year or two and we have a significant opportunity. That potential is incredibly motivating and I'm eager to push as hard as possible to take advantage of this momentum.
How can someone support your work?
The best two ways to support our work are to sign up to take action and to donate. We need active volunteers and the resources to support them if we are going to be successful. Both of those actions can be taken at www.BeyondTheBomb.org.
How do you measure progress in this field?
Our progress is measured by looking at the number of activists engaging on a regular basis, the volume of the conversation in the media and pop culture, the number of Members of Congress and other electeds who are supporting common sense nuclear policies and legislation, and the presence of this issue in Presidential campaigns, party platforms, and other spaces outside of the nuclear-advocacy realm.
Who inspires you?
Greta Thunberg, Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, Avery McRae and the Juliana plaintiffs, Mari Copeny (Little Miss Flint), Emma Gonzalez, and all of the amazing youth activists who are done taking no for an answer from the powers that be. Their drive and optimism is palpable and they have made incredible strides - because they believed they could. I am so excited to get to work with activists like them every day and to see all the changes that will come about because of this activism.
How do you think including more diverse voices will affect your field of work?
Diversity of culture, race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, experience, perspective, skills, and context are all critical components of building an effective change strategy. In addition, if we want to be successful in our advocacy, we need to change a wide selection of hearts and minds and activate diverse voices in our fight. To this end, we actively work to ensure that our strategy, planning, and organizing work is led by diverse voices and that we are engaging with diverse communities. We are all potentially impacted by nuclear weapons, but already under-represented and under-privileged communities are disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of the nuclear industrial complex and must have a voice in building the solutions.
What is the best book you read recently?
I recently finished So You Want to Talk about Race? by Ijeoma Oluo. It is a refreshingly honest discussion of not only the critical need for these conversations, but also the many pitfalls that often mar them. I definitely recommend this book for anyone looking to better understand and address racial justice issues in our society.