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January 19, 2010

Ruckus and Martin

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Adrienne Maree Brown @ 9:12 pm

It’s totally fitting to me to be heading into our Ruckus Network Round-Up the week that the world celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.

I remember the first time I learned of MLK’s work. I’m sure most of the Ruckus network remembers…for me it was formative. I was in elementary school, and it was an explanation of the holiday. As an ARMY brat, I had learned of bodies and duty in a way that was defined by violence. To hear that the human body and voice and mind could be used to improve the human condition, through nonviolence, for love?

I’ve never been the same.

There are so many moments of hopelessness at this time in history, and I write from that place now…this is a hard time to have faith. The crises and inequalities in the African American community are actually worse by the numbers…. Internationally, Haiti is the latest point of black crisis to illicit our grief and our donations, and stands as New Orleans did, current proof of how unstable our infrastructures are, built on the sands of tokenization, racism, inhumane foreign policy and capitalist gain.

What is over the mountaintop for us? What is a promise land for all of us who labor and struggle and organize and unify and dream of better lives for ourselves and those we love?

It is not vision alone. We have learned the limitations of vision without action. Our lack of collective power now stems from the space between those who say they share the dream of King, and those willing to share the practices, or invest in the practices. King’s legacy inspires us because there are so many strategic, successful actions in it. If he had simply been a marvelous orator, he would have lacked the credibility that his tireless and incendiary action earned him.

When I doubt the power of nonviolent work, of actions speaking louder than words…when I feel angry and like the boundaries of civil society need to be pushed, I remember that one of my other heros, Malcolm X, was coming around to seeing King’s vision by the end of his life. Theirs is a great tale of the commitment to finding a path to strength, equality, power and righteousness – for black people and for all people. It is also a reminder of how dangerous it is to make that commitment, to stand with those most oppressed, with your people, and let nothing turn you away from what you know is right.

And people who have made that level of commitment in their lives, to continually stand with those most oppressed, to stand for justice…that’s who I get to sit with this week, that’s how I get to honor King’s work right now, today.

What a legacy. What an honor to know our work carries some piece of that torch forward through history.

Thank you Martin Luther King, Jr., and all those you stood with, for inspiring a generation of direct action.

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