Honoring MLK's Legacy

Posted by Esther Njuguna, Contributing Writer, on Jan 13, 2021

Honoring MLK's Legacy

Several Chase Oaks staff members respond to questions about what it means for people of color to celebrate Dr. King and continue his work, especially at this tumultuous time in our nation’s history. Their personal reflections give an honest glimpse into why, and how, they each honor and build upon the legacy of MLK.

Why I Celebrate MLK

By Reggie Nious

I once heard a writer say, “Perhaps the Divine One is playing games with us. God seems to have hidden holiness and wholeness in a secret place where only the humble will find it.”

During the first month of every new year, I get to reflect on the Civil Rights movement that Dr. King led. I start thinking about the suffering and the sacrifices of those involved to help end racism in America. Then I realize that racial reconciliation equals wholeness. However, only the humble will find it.

The reason I love observing the life and legacy of Dr King is because his example invites me to the humble pursuit of wholeness, bringing me closer to God.

Music is an integral part of Black culture. If you were to create a playlist of ‘MLK’ music, what would you include? Why do so many songs speak of the struggle, the hope, and the dream?

by Tyrone Johnson

Songs I would pick would include “More Than I Can Bear” and “My World Needs You” by Kirk Franklin. I would also add “In the Midst of It All” by Yolanda Adams.

Music has been and still is a large part of our culture. It gives us the freedom to worship and express ourselves in ways that feed our souls. I believe people of color have a built-in desire for hope because we must. We are always hoping and dreaming that there will come a time when we are granted opportunities—ones that allow us to be able to make progress and provide better for our families.

We need to speak of the struggle because it is a part of our history; we need to speak of the hope because we have to believe that things will get better; and we need to speak of the dream because, like the cloud of witnesses from Hebrews 11, we keep alive the faith of the elders.

Having faith allows us to have hope and dream of a better future that is to come.

How are you raising the next generation to live out and work towards MLK’s dream and vision?

By Simret Ingram

One of my favorite MLK sermons that I heard just a couple of years ago is his “Good Samaritan” message based on Luke 10:25-37. Dr. King tells the parable in such a way that it seems to fit even our modern-day way of thinking, here in 2021.

He tells the crowd: On a “dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho,” a man fell among thieves and was stripped and left for dead. A priest and a Levite saw the man and crossed to the other side of the road. Finally, a Samaritan passed by and stopped to help the fallen man. In thinking about this scripture, King wonders whether instead of asking “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” the good Samaritan asked, “If I do NOT stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

MLK wonders out loud why the priest did not stop. “Perhaps he was late for a meeting. Perhaps he was forbidden to help because of ceremonial reasons. Perhaps he wanted to focus his efforts on building a Jericho Road Improvement Association. Or perhaps, most likely, he was afraid.”

This I find most poignant. When we think about the series of current crises we seem to be living through in the United States, we all seem to be reacting out of fear. We are acting more like the priest than the Samaritan. We are prioritizing our own wants, our own image, our own fears.

Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us that we ought to be asking, “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” I want to teach the next generation to live asking that question.

“What will happen to that person being mistreated, if I do not stop to help? If I do not stand up for that person being discriminated against? If I do not help that person being bullied, what will happen?”

If we ask ourselves, and indeed, teach our next generation this question that M.L. King so simply and eloquently asks, we will surely find ourselves living in the world that he envisioned for us all.

The work continues: What is left to do, and who should do it?

by Carol Ridgeway

What can be done to continue the work of Martin Luther King, Jr.? This question is not to be taken lightly. To continue a work that was formed by someone that left an eternal mark on society and the world can seem overwhelming. I think MLK would want someone to come along and take what he has started and then elevate it to even higher possibilities.

MLK didn’t dream just for his children, he dreamt for all children. That is why I think there are still bridges to cross and opportunities to build on what he left behind.

As I’ve matured, the legacy of MLK continues to expand into a set of five directives:

  1. We must be in community. We are, as poet Gwendolyn Brooks wrote, “… each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”
  2. We must each be learned and know the history of humans. Successful activism requires understanding the past as one attempts to change the future.
  3. Justice belongs to all people, so welcome everyone into justice-seeking efforts.
  4. Change your mind and tactics when new evidence comes to the fore.
  5. Love yourself, love others, and embody compassion so that you can be rigorous and tough without dwelling in madness. In midlife, this is the part of Dr. King’s legacy I most closely grasp: be loving and tough, and be unapologetic about being loving and tough.
Hearing one another’s perspectives is essential to building understanding and effecting change. If you’d like more opportunities to ask, listen, and learn from others in a group setting, join a Unity Table. Visit here for information and registration for the next Unity Table on January 31, 2021.

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