Let’s un-domesticate the MLK holiday

It wasn’t until the year 2000 that all 50 states officially observed MLK Day. Ronny Reagan went down as the President signing the idea into a law in 1983 (first observed in 1986) after half a million people marched on Washington – even though the first draft of the bill was submitted to Congress four days after his assassination in 1968. I think in some ways it’s still a bit ironic for the US (of all countries) to celebrate such a radical who might be best remembered for galvanizing and leading a movement fighting systemic injustice waged by the same, largely unmoved government. The cunning empire, of course, loves to embrace a sentimental and sanitized version – and why not throw an American flag in there, too? 

For many of you reading this, the years I already mentioned may seem like ancient history – or at least during a different world. It wasn’t for another dozen years after his speech at Riverside Church in NYC 365 days before his murder that King delivered the famous “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” speech (text and audio here). Among other profundities, he declared “Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin [applause], we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

I didn’t know Martin and know very few people who ever even met him. For such a public figure, for a martyr, for a legacy – I think we need to keep learning and trying to finish the work King began. This year we should be celebrating his 86th birthday. Instead we are fighting to supply meaning to a holiday that the state would like us to believe is a marker of progress. I am psyched that a bunch of Circle of Hope leaders – particularly Sara and the rest of the Compassion Core –  are trying to make something special of it this year. Here are three ways to get into it.

Prayer

Don’t pretend for a second that the man and the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s were not soaking in prayer or centered on Jesus. We already have ten people signed up to keep it going for 24hrs on the holiday. Want to add to the growing list? Sign up here.

Solidarity

It’s easier to remember quotes from speeches than it is to march. There are already almost 1,000 FB users RSVP’d to get out to the MLK Day of Action, Resistance, and Empowerment March (press release for non FB users here). I think ending “stop & frisk,” a $15 minimum wage, and fully funded and democratically run school systems are all good enough reasons to shut down Broad St then Market streets for a few hours. Don’t you?

Imagining

We schedule 60min per month for the Leadership Team and others interested to stoke our collective fire at the Imaginarium. This time we’re finalizing Circle of Hope’s 2015 Map. Action, Resistance, and Empowerment must extend beyond one day. I think being part of the church is a great way to keep it going.

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