I have been re-posting, writing about and including this quote everywhere lately: “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King is someone whose writing I return to over and over again, because it is lyrically powerful in addition to its uplifting message of strength and unity. He was targeted because his message was ultimately too powerful, and was begin to assist in the integration of minds, hearts and spirits of white and black people in America. While Malcolm X's message was one feared by many white Americans because it emphasized the strength and unity of black people, King's audience was broadened with his calculated approach of non-violence. His message was sanitized after his death, and every year when we pause to celebrate his glorious impact, I also want to remember "Letter from A Birmingham Jail" and his later writing, which sought to understand the very root of violence as a response to being treated inhumanely, for hundreds of years.
As we work in United Playaz, we often talk about how some of the problems we see in our society, police brutality, sexism, racism, domestic violence, rape -- that these are too large for us to tackle in a small Bronx classroom. I sense your cynicism and you call me cheesy because I still believe in the change we can each activate within our own lives. I am not naive enough to believe that personal change is enough, though. Systemic racism must end. Mass incarceration and criminalization of young, black and brown people must end. Materialism and greed for more than we need. Dropping bombs on people who look different from us, because we fear their way of life. All of these things must be left behind when WE take over.
So, after the election, I asked you to write about where you were. You complained, told me that this was the worst part of this class. I asked you to vision, to think about the kind of future you'd like to see. I asked you to write what you wanted for our future. You told me that no one was listening anyway, that things wouldn't change in the hood, no matter who was president. But we have to speak anyway, have to act anyway. Your community is listening, and wants to hear what you have to say. We might not close Rikers Island (yet), but we can make moves toward building a world in which we are valued, our ideas are heard, and we can impact how our community looks and feels.
So I ask you, as we celebrate the progress that Dr. King helped to make in this country, but as we look around and see that racism is still alive, well and gaining more steam than it's had since the 1950's, how do we move? Let's speak UP on Friday, and take the words we share as a first step in our movement.