King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" Still Calls to Us
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. - Martin Luther King, Jr, from "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"
Recent events in the U.S. have had me thinking a lot about civil rights, leadership, and social change. I haven't said much about it here or on any other public platform, though it's been a topic of private conversation with many of my friends. Chief among my concerns is that we currently do not have a Martin Luther King, Jr., who can speak to and for all of us. President Obama is too divisive along many other political grounds - for many different reasons - and other elders, I fear, are too mired in the world as it was, rather than the world as it is, and thus bring with them an unnecessary animosity and bitterness that serve more to pick at old wounds than to truly heal them or new ones. As I mentioned a few years ago in my Letter from Lincoln post, I read King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail every year to remind myself not just of past struggles, but also of the responsibility to consider the new struggles and the new, determined action needed today to root out local injustices that threaten justice everywhere.
"That the world is far better than it was is no warrant to ease up ferreting out the systematic wrongs that people continue to suffer." (Click to share - thanks!)
It was thus my great pleasure and honor to be invited to participate in a group reading of the Letter in a project Willie Jackson organized. You can listen to it here. It's easy to forget that our involvement in positive social change doesn't have to be a huge commitment. Here are a few simple things you can do today:
If you haven't read the Letter in a while, please take some time to do so or, even better, listen to it while you're on a walk or doing your housework.
If you'd like to learn more about the Letter and talk about it, Acumen is offering a free small-group course/discussion about it. Seth Godin discusses that here.
If you happen to have little ones around, reading it and/or talking to them about it can be your one simple action. The more the younger generations throw off the shackles of both divisiveness and bitterness, the closer we will be to healing the past and preventing suffering now and in the future.
We've come a long way. Let's keep moving forward together.