Today, we are honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year, more than recent years, this holiday seems to call for deep reflection on where we are and how we can move forward.
My father shared the same birthday as MLK – January 15th. And so it is impossible for me to think of King’s legacy without thinking of my father.
My father was born in the 1920s to West Indian immigrants. His father was a laborer on the Panama Canal, whose first wife and 3 children were all killed by Yellow Fever. After the Panama Canal was completed, he invited my grandmother to join him to start a new life in America. I can’t imagine the hopefulness it would have taken to suffer the loss of your entire family and be willing to start again. He died when my father was just 12.
My grandmother went on toiling in anonymity, “scrubbing white people’s floors” to the point that her knees were so badly damaged that she could no longer walk in her old age, so that my father could go to college. Again, I am moved by her hopefulness and faith. At times I am certain it would have been impossible for them to believe that in spite of the deck being stacked against their very survival, they passed on a quality of hope and resilience that led my father to an Ivy League education against every possible odd and obstacle.
My father was one of the countless Black men and women who have struggled and continue to struggle for recognition, meritocracy and equity for whom King is a source of hope and inspiration. Although my father was not a famous man, he was a great man. He was willing to persevere – even to the point of fighting in a war – to fulfill his dream, and manifest his humanity.
What I have learned most from these two great men is that how you live is the most essential aspect of living. And that how you live you live has nothing to do with the conditions that you face.
When your commitment becomes to who you are as an embodiment of the world you want to create, there is no more choice of to struggle or not struggle, to take a stand or not. You will always act on that commitment. For me one of the greatest benefits of being Black is that this aspect of life is explicitly clear. For all of us there is a gap between who we understand ourselves to be and who others see us as being. For Black people this gap can at times be insurmountable.
Some questions for reflection come to mind:
* Have you forged the courage to stand on the side of justice regardless of convenience or result?
* Have you built the capacity to continue (joyfully) when you know the odds are stacked against you?
* Have you developed the ability to struggle with dignity and self-assurance irregardless of how you’re seen?
* Have you opened your heart to see the ugly side of others in yourself and recognize the humanity?
For both King and my father the election of Barack Obama was unimaginable. And the election of Kamala Harris was even more so.
The inauguration of President Obama was one of the most incredible experiences I have had. Millions of people peacefully congregating, celebrating and for many of us for the first time feeling like change had come. It was an existential moment: the feeling that new horizon that we didn’t know existed had opened. We will miss that opportunity this week to celebrate what was once unimaginable.
Of course the reaction to the election of the first Black President was forceful and profoundly disappointing.
Many allowed the rise of hate and failed to answer the call to take hard stands for justice and harmony. Too many made lesser evil choices that Black people ended up on the down side of yet again.
Over recent days we have watched white supremacists and their allies mount a very real insurgency against our government. This was in part a violent reaction to seeing the values that we, the Align community, hold dear manifesting in the world around us. Diversity, acceptance, belief in the inherent value of every individual, peace, justice, love without limit were every bit as much being challenged as democracy itself, because white supremacy will never allow for any of these things.
As a wellness studio, we believe that justice is essential for well-being; and that well-being is essential for justice – they are inextricably linked. We wholeheartedly believe that when we come together as a community (albeit virtually) and we work together to master the skills of authenticity, self-love, connection, humanity, and resilience, we will find and take the actions necessary to realize our vision for peace and justice for all humanity. Yes, we will find the way forward toward our new world without knowing our next step.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
“Faith is taking the first step, when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
“I have a dream.”