Local view: Together we can complete King's dream, his 'beloved community'
Even as the community comes together in celebration of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., his birthday, his good works, his courage, and his leadership, we can ask: Why have we come to this place — at this moment, at this time, at this juncture in human existence?
I'm not going to lie; I have no desire to put on a pretense of why I am here. I'm here because everybody was waiting for somebody to do something, but nobody said anything. So I stood up. I simply stood up for my community.
People from all walks of life have stood up for our community. Our elders. Our children. Our youth. Our family. Even our community has stood up for our community — by talking. Hard, deep, insightful, and painful conversations are happening. Hard truths are coming into the light of reflection. Serious considerations are being made. At this juncture of human existence, change is happening. At this juncture of our existence, great and terrifying, new and drastic, and wonderfully necessary changes are happening.
And we the community are terrified. We embrace change as much as we fear it. We see the new as untried, alien, strange, and frightening. The community is leery of what the change will be and how it will affect our lives. How will we be changed?
Dr. King hoped to achieve what he called "the beloved community," a global vision of all people sharing in the wealth of the Earth. In the beloved community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness are not tolerated because international standards of human decency don't allow such things. Racism, all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice are replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the beloved community, international disputes are resolved by peaceful conflict resolution and reconciliation rather than military might. Love and trust triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice prevails over war and military conflict.
"Dr. King's beloved community was not devoid of interpersonal, group, or international conflict," as was written by the King Center of Atlanta. "Instead, he recognized that conflict was an inevitable part of human experience. But he believed that conflicts could be resolved peacefully and adversaries could be reconciled through a mutual, determined commitment to nonviolence. No conflict, he believed, need erupt in violence. And all conflicts in the beloved community should end with (the) reconciliation of adversaries, cooperating together in a spirit of friendship and goodwill."
United in the struggle for the beloved community, we all can commit to the six principles of nonviolence and nonviolent social change, as detailed by the King Center:
The first is information gathering. To understand and articulate an issue, problem, or injustice, research is necessary. Investigating and gathering vital information from all sides of an argument increases the understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent's position.
The second principle is education. It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy.
The third is personal commitment: Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives, and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.
The fourth is discussion and negotiation: Using grace, humor, and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving the injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent, but call forth the good in the opponent.
Fifth is taking direct action, especially when an opponent is unwilling to enter into or remain in discussions and negotiations. This imposes a creative tension into a conflict, supplying moral pressure to work together to resolve the injustice.
And sixth is reconciliation: Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with an opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, and unjust acts — but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve injustices with plans of action. Every act of reconciliation is one step closer to achieving the beloved community.
As members of the Twin Ports community, our beloved community, are we committed to social change through nonviolent, love-based means? Are we full of the promise and positive purpose of Dr. King's undying legacy?
As a people, it's time to acknowledge our shared humanity, to bridge the gap between old and new, and to face the inevitable change of the movement into the new age. As the inheritors of Dr. King's great legacy, it is time to break ground for solidarity in action and move that mountain of division. It's time to pave the way for our future leaders with wisdom, support, mentoring, and love.
It's time to use all facets of our community to achieve Dr. King's dream. Resources situated in and derived from places of privilege need to be used to assist and support the entire community: From grassroots to national-level partnerships and from the single, solitary protester to the traffic-stopping mass of humanity, each of us has a responsibility to get down in the mud to lift up our brothers and sisters, to help carry the load, and to build the beloved community.
Kym Young of Superior is a community human rights activist and the executive coordinator of the Superior African Heritage Community. She adapted this from a speech she delivered after being invited by the News Tribune Opinion page to write a commentary.