MLK+50 Guide: Key Quotes and Reflection Questions from Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, Boston

[From Emily Ling for Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, Boston]

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech continues to carry important
wisdom for current times. Consider the following key quotes from the speech and
reflection questions to nurture consideration for how to bring King’s legacy into relevant
action today.
Key Quote: “When the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the
case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by
uncertainty; but we must move on.”
Reflection Question 1: How might our faith traditions help us to press on even when
present conditions are perplexing and there is much uncertainty about how to move
Key Quote: “The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the
American spirit.”
Reflection Question 2: What maladies within the American spirit are at the heart of the
current social unrest and what is the role of our faith communities in healing those
Key Quote: “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world
revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values… 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.”
Reflection Question 3: How do we act to re-orient our communities, our institutions,
and our political discourse to value the wellbeing of all people more than we value
increased prosperity? How might such an orientation help overcome the continued
vices of racism, materialism, and militarism?
Key Quote: “The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others
and nothing to learn from them is not just.”
Reflection Question 4: What can other countries and cultures teach us about how to
practice goodwill, establish justice, and build Beloved Community? How can we be
engaging in conversations with the international community so that we are able to
learn from the wisdom of other communities?
Key Quote: “A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war,
‘This way of settling differences is not just.’… A nation that continues year after year
to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is
approaching spiritual death.”
Reflection Question 5: How might improving our spiritual health change the priorities
that we support in public policy and government spending?
Key Quote: “This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond
one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and
unconditional love for all [human]kind… When I speak of love I am not speaking of
some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just
emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen
as the supreme unifying principle of life.”
Reflection Question 6: How can our religious traditions teach us how to cultivate
unconditional love for all humanity in ways that empower strong and courageous
worldwide fellowship?
Key Quote: “If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and
shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without
compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight… Now let us begin. Now
let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new
Reflection Question 7: If creating a new world requires compassion, morality, and
vision, what can we do to grow those qualities in our ourselves and in future

Creating “MLK + 50: A Jubilee Year of Truth and Transformation”

Spiritual Roots, Political Fruit: April 4, 2017 to April 4, 2018

April 4, 2018  will be the 50th anniversary of the death — the murder — of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

April 4, 2017  will be the 50th anniversary of his speech to Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam, at Riverside Church in New York. There he warned us of the “deadly triplets” of racism, militarism, and materialism that were endangering America. (And still are.)

We propose to make the year from April 4, 2017, to April 4, 2018, an American Jubilee Year of Truth and Transformation — through action as well as emotional and spiritual reflection and repentance.

We intend to make it a year for renewing the struggle to end the malignant impact of racism, militarism, and materialism and to move toward what Dr. King called the Beloved Community. Read more

Hakim Bellamy on MLK

Note: Readers can find poems on Dr. King, audio of the poem, and other writings by Hakim Bellamy at his website.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and I go way back. Growing up in South Jersey, Grandson of Deacon Gennessee Charles Bellamy and son of (then) Deacon Edward Frederick Bellamy … you best believe my hind parts spent the better half of Sunday getting acquainted with  a wooden church pew. I was a Sunday school regular Christ Care Unit Missionary Baptist Church and member of both the young adult and mass choirs. The latter of which shared the pulpit with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest daughter, Dr. Bernice King. Twice.

I arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico on MLK Day in 2005 (no lie). Shortly thereafter, I became a fledgling radio reporter at KUNM 89.9FM (Albuquerque’s NPR station) and enjoyed the distinct honor of meeting and interviewing the late Yolanda King, the eldest child of Martin and Coretta.

And just a few months ago, I set foot in the same church that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself was both baptized as a child and ordained as a minister. Consequently, it was also where his funeral was held.

However, my real understanding of his complex legacy comes from my annual participation in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Celebration at Amy Biehl High School. An breathtaking example of forgiveness and sacrifice in their own right, the Biehl family founded a school to honor the legacy of Amy … a  white, 26 year-old Fulbright scholar and anti-apartheid activist who was murdered in 1993 by Black men in Cape Town, South Africa. A year later in 1994, Biehl’s parents, Linda and Peter, founded the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust to develop and empower youth in the townships, in order to discourage further violence. The legacy of this school, is one of courage, scholarship and community; as evidenced by their commitment to service learning. Emphasized by the student body’s commitment to showing for school (read: their community) on their “day off” engaged in a day of volunteership.

And every year since 2009, I have written an original poem about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in order to rally, relate and provide some context to the lineage of love that they now find themselves direct descendants of. I am always thankful, that my words are somehow affiliated with their work. Always blessed by the invitation to dive deeper into compassion, complexity and contradiction that King left behind.

This year, I decided to take a cue from Dr. Michael Eric Dyson’s text April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Death and How it Changed America.  This poem an “automortology” in the form of a letter from Dr. King … to President Barack Obama TODAY … four days before he vacates the office of the President of the United States.

“He always knew some speech would be his last.”
– Andrew Young

Dr. Martin Luther King Died of Heart Disease: An Automortology

Dear Barack,

Surely by now, you’ve come to the sobering truth that has shadowed your Presidency, and turned me into a ghost. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. That line … originally a fiction, first penned in 1975 by Gerald Seymour in his book Harry’s Game. A tale about an Irish Republican Army assassin and a British undercover agent…a familiar story about personhood, whole citizenship, borders … or should I say “Lack of boundaries” and nation building… and that arbitrary line…a moving target between love and hate.

That line, the one I found myself at the dead end of and you find yourself on both sides of, the one you learned to double dutch on one foot somewhere between Honolulu and Washington, D.C. Me, a man of the cloth…so God forgive me for what I am about to confess… but, Barack, you are what I believed in. Little Black boys holding hands with little white girls and … doing more than just holding hands … birthing nations in college dorm rooms on campuses barely integrated six years prior. Making love. Making “Leaders of the Free World.” Making you. Nothing but a fantastic beast to some, but to others…a mythical creature, to those whom Black Presidents have never been anything more than a figment of their imagination.

So there’s a new line now. And from one gifted orator to another, I’m sure it’s one you know all too well. One man’s dream, is another man’s nightmare. Eight. The same number of years older than me you were when you took office. Both with children, afraid for our lives, and theirs. Wives, strong enough to share us with the rest of the world, but insecure enough to know that the same secret surveillance that records our phone calls is also privy to every single plot to take our lives. They chose not to intercept mine, but I thank God that you survived. Survived all the crosses they burned on the White House lawn. The cyber assassinations of your character and the terrorization of Black churches on your watch.

I am unsure if I would have made as good a President as you. As good a President as they say I would’ve. I mean, I would have been fine with all the talk of death, the frequency of eulogies, the constant consideration of conflict, the relentless discussions about labor, justice and war. But at 39, I was already eating and drinking my way through a great depression. Upon realizing that whatever sickness our society was suffering from, was contagious … and possibly fatal. It’s been said that I was killed by an act of hate, but I prefer to think I simply died of a broken heart. A lost “hope,” that you found.

I took a bullet, so that in four days you could walk out…or in…any color house you want, without so much as a scratch. My slaying as inevitable as your inauguration was unexpected. In a way, we’ve both given our lives to this country…with nothing but a legacy of servitude to show for us. But you, are the one thing that I will never be…alive. And I am the one thing America’s founding fathers assured us that you’d never become … a King.

“Social Self-Defense”: Protecting People and Planet Against Trump and Trumpism

by Jeremy Brecher

Originally published on Common Dreams.

Donald Trump and a powerful collection of anti-social forces have taken control of the U.S. government. They seek permanent domination in service of their individual and class wealth and power. Trump’s presidency threatens immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, workers, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, LGBTQ people, and many others. Indeed, it threatens all that holds us together as a society. We the people — society — need to defend ourselves against this threat and bring it to an end. We need what resisters to repressive regimes elsewhere have called “Social Self-Defense.”

Social Self-Defense means we’ve got each others’ backs.

The term “Social Self-Defense” is borrowed from the struggle against the authoritarian regime in Poland forty years ago.  In the midst of harsh repression, Polish activists formed a loose network to provide financial, legal, medical, and other help to people who had been persecuted by the police or unjustly dismissed from their work. Calling themselves the Committee for Social Self-Defense (KOR), they aimed to “fight political, religious and ideological persecution”; to “oppose breaches of the law”; to “provide help for the persecuted”; to “safeguard civil liberties”; and to defend “human and civil rights.” KOR organized free trade unions to defend the rights of workers and citizens. Its members, who insisted on operating openly in public, were soon blacklisted, beaten, and imprisoned. They nonetheless persisted, and nurtured many of the networks, strategies, and ideas that came to fruition in Solidarity – and ultimately in the dissolution of repressive regimes in Poland and many other countries.

From the day Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, thousands of people began to resist his agenda. Demonstrations against Trump broke out in American cities; police chiefs, mayors, and governors declared they would not implement his attack on immigrants; thousands of people signed up to accompany threatened immigrants, religious minorities, and women; technical workers pledged they would not build data bases to facilitate discrimination and deportation. Discussion of how to resist the Trump regime broke out at dining room tables, emails among friends, social media, and community gatherings.

It is impossible to know whether the Trump regime will rapidly self-destruct; successfully impose a reign of terror that dominates the U.S. for years or decades to come; or deadlock indefinitely with anti-Trump forces. We do know that the future of the planet and its people depends on resisting and overcoming Trump’s agenda. The struggle against Trump and Trumpism is nothing less than the defense of society – Social Self-Defense. Read more

Facing the Trump Presidency, What Now?

Creating a Year of Truth & Transformation by Drawing on Martin Luther King + 50

The election of Donald Trump arose from a profound spiritual, cultural, and political crisis in American society. Two halves of the country both feel themselves left out ––  and have turned to attacking each other, rather than transforming the system that keeps them both under debilitating pressure

The election brought an unexpected outpouring  of  the “Old American left-outs” – blue-collar white men and women –– into a moment’s triumph. We have already seen a first response from the “New American left-outs” in the spontaneous demonstrations that erupted all over America within 24 hours of the election, and in many commitments to resistance and opposition that have arisen since.

We need to crystallize this outburst into a Read more

This Election — and Beyond (Both Now Dangerously Uncertain)

One month ago, it seemed clear who would be elected President. Now it is not at all clear whether beginning January 20, our President will be a politician with a checkered political past and an incrementally liberal /progressive present, or someone who has the personal characteristics of a bully and the political program of a fascist. (These are my own personal assessments, not those of The Shalom Center.)

That choice is so unprecedented and the election results are so uncertain only because our country is in a deep spiritual, cultural, and political crisis.  The crisis will not go away on Election Day or Inauguration Day.

But that does not mean we can ignore Election Day, or waste it with an irrelevant vote. The most important spiritual action that you who are members and friends of The Shalom Center can do in the next weeks is…

Read the whole post on The Shalom Center’s website »