Atlanta, GA. — Rev. Bernice King, one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s children, now CEO of the King Center, recalls her father’s words in his speech ‘Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution’ in wake of the grand jury ruling not to indict Officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed unarmed Ferguson teen, Mike Brown.
In his timeless speech, ‘Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution’, my father exhorted, “Let us stand up. Let us be a concerned generation. Let us remain awake through a great revolution.” I believe that we are in the midst of a great revolution and that the shooting death of Mike Brown by Officer Darren Wilson, while horribly tragic, serves as one of the catalysts to charge the revolution. However, the progress of the revolution for social change is heavily dependent on whether we are a concerned generation, whether we are awake and on how we answer this question: Decades from now,what do we want historians to write about this moment?
Answering this question truthfully and thoughtfully requires self-analysis. As my father stated, “When the dawn reveals a landscape dotted with obstacles, the time has come for sober reflection, for assessment of our methods and for anticipating pitfalls.” This nation, and indeed, the world, is in need of an influx of citizens who are soberly reflecting, assessing and anticipating, then choosing nonviolence as a lifestyle.
In embracing Nonviolence 365 days a year, we are agreeing to engage in examination of our thoughts, our motives, and our conformity to the violent, fear-mongering, hostile culture that we, as humanity, have created. That’s difficult to do. It is much easier to point out the bad deeds of others than to confront our own contributions to social ills. But, we must. From law enforcement to activists, from media to grass roots organizers, from faith leaders to policy makers, we all must be honest with and challenge ourselves to act with love, respect and compassion for all people.
We must choose strategy and discipline over destruction and frustration. It takes discipline to opt for nonviolence and restraint in a culture that is permeated with anger and rapid responses. Nevertheless, it is imperative for our human survival and the cultivation of what my father called the Beloved Community that we, no matter our vocation or walk of life, conduct ourselves on “the high plane of dignity and discipline.”
Even in our struggles across the globe for freedom and rights, it behooves us to “not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” For the revolution for social change to remain alive, vibrant and progressive, we must answer the call to live, think and act higher. Four of the most critical characteristics within this higher call are the aforementioned dignity, discipline, compassion and respect. The relationship between police officers and the communities that they serve is an area that must be addressed with attention to this higher call.
Finally, we must realize that our present global human condition is the result of years of neglect. We have not consistently, with focus and with critical thinking, confronted the Triple Evils that my father taught about. Those three evils are racism, poverty and militarism. Therefore, to answer the question ‘What do we want historians to write about this moment?’, we must begin again the intensive, transformative work of addressing these three epidemics within our “World House”.
This transformative work has to be done in tandem with a mental and spiritual outlook of ‘interrelatedness’. As my father shared, “All mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality.”
When we embrace this ‘interrelated World House’ perspective, cease to neglect addressing the Triple Evils, choose strategy and discipline over destruction and frustration, and engage in self-analysis, we will have positioned ourselves for a great revolution for social change. We will have emphatically responded with our actions that we want historians to say that, in this moment, we chose the Beloved Community. Historical accounts will reflect that we chose to believe that “the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice”, but we also chose not to “overlook the urgency of the moment.”
As my father stated, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.” Historians, 40 years from now, can reflect that we decided to live in such a way that humanity could continue. Nonviolence 365 is the choice that we must make. “The alternative may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation.”
Let’s stand up, be concerned and stay awake through this great revolution.