Diversity Equality Inclusion - January 22, 2021
by Various Staff Members
With today’s Friday Thoughts, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Now more than ever, his words are guiding lights of inspiration and a profound call to live in peace and love.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Dr. King said. Every effort to embrace equality for all must be rooted and grounded in love and concern for all mankind. The inspiration of a non-violent call for change did not vary based on Dr. King’s location. Whether he spoke from the pulpit, from jail, from the front lines of a march or even from a space of quiet contemplation like a hotel room, Dr. King consistently exclaimed, “Freedom is for Everyone!’
Please enjoy the following quotes from Dr. King. They were personally selected by staff and residents. In the DEI Committee, we don’t like the word “challenge”, because it brings to mind competition and reward. However, we are challenged to embrace all, to be instruments of peace and to take ownership of being the change we want to see.
And yes, there is a reward: we can live peaceably, enjoying the beauty of diversity, celebrating each individual’s contribution and resting in the assurance that Dr. King’s dream can be a reality for our present as well as for future generations.
This year’s celebration of Dr. King takes on even greater significance because of the horrific acts of violence and insurrection that took place January 6th on the U.S. Capitol! Martin Luther King Jr. preached the need for non-violence and love over hate! I know of no other leader who spoke so beautifully, so powerfully and poetically about the need for love, humanity, unity, justice and harmony! He prayed for a world where the condition of the human spirit would only be the spirt of love; a world that transforms evil to love so that peace could reign. “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Dr. King’s legacy inspires me with his message of love conquering evil. “Love is the greatest force in the universe. It is the heartbeat of the moral cosmos.”
“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.” This quote reminds me that we are all responsible for uplifting and encouraging the community that surrounds us. We must do the work to understand each other’s unique backgrounds, beliefs and challenges. Pour into your neighbor, because when they grow, you blossom.
In his famous “I have a dream” speech, Dr. King dreamed of the day when his children would “be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” We too had small children at that time, and these words struck my heart as a clarion call of how I’d want my own children judged and how I’d want them to live: to honor all others with respect and care across any differences we may encounter, be they color of skin, religious beliefs, levels of society or cultures we don’t understand. Our response today must still be to act on that inner truth: that every person deserves to be respected, and known by his/her heart and character.
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”
“The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.” —Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967)
As a spouse of an African American from D.C. and the father of an 18 year son and 13 year old daughter from Ethiopia, Dr. King’s words inspire us to change our archaic collective thinking. We must all look inward for that change to develop before we can genuinely bridge the chasm of inequity that is desperately needed for our time.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Strength to Love, 1963
This quote is a constant reminder to do a “Heart Check” and operate out of a place of love. As I reflect on this quote, I’m humming “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine..” and I’m often reminded of the scripture, 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power of love and of a sound mind.” Keeping Love at the forefront will always win and maybe we don’t always feel like it, but even a small amount of good can overcome any amount of bad. Be the light in darkness, love always, and let it shine, let it shine, let it shine….
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
To me, this quote has served as a reminder and call to empathy for those in our lives that we find challenging. It also emphasizes that regardless of differences, no person should be burdened with giving or receiving an emotion as destructive as hatred.
As I reflect on who I am today, I remember an experience in August 2013 when my wife and I participated in the 50th Anniversary March on Washington Realize the Dream March and Rally. I remember standing together with people from all over the country celebrating our differences, acknowledging how far we have come, and devoting ourselves to continuing to activate change in ourselves. I have become more aware of our nation’s differences since this experience, and I am more engaged in finding ways to be a part of the solution – first starting with myself.
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
As an ESOL educator I was blessed with the opportunity to share the grace and love of my students and their families.
My father always told me that if anyone ever asked “what are you”, meaning ethnicity, the only correct answer was the truth: I am an American. And as an adult, my favorite mantra has always been Popeye’s saying: “I am what I yam!”
So, in many ways, the words of Dr. King resonate with me. You see, I did not learn to speak English until I got to school because my maternal grandmother lived with us and she had never learned to speak English.
She was 21 years old when her family came to the U.S. from Mexico, fleeing from Pancho Villa’s raids of the smaller villages just south of the Rio Grande River.
She became a U.S. citizen at the age of 65 because the citizenship test could be taken in one’s native language. Before that, every time we drove “across the river” to have dinner or go shopping, she showed her green alien card. We thought nothing of it, “situation normal”.
Dr. King spoke of wanting to be treated no differently than anyone else – a lofty goal. One’s character should be the one thing taken into account. I’ve always believed that…and my Dad was right – I AM AN AMERICAN.
“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” – Coretta Scott King.
Here is one of my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes: “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by human beings for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison people because they are different from others.”
It supports my belief that all U.S. citizens should have the right to vote. Moreover, it has been a guide for my efforts to fight against voter suppression, fight for voting rights and fair election administration legislation, and to educate voters on election laws and issues.
About the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Committee: We are a group of staff and residents who together serve a mission to educate, embrace and empower a workplace of diversity, equality and inclusion. Our vision is to seek open and honest communication and collaboration that will inform and celebrate the cultural, ethnic and sexual orientation of all members of our staff without bias.