This past year has been tumultuous, challenging, eye-opening, disheartening, encouraging, hope-filled, disparaging, heartbreaking, educational, and every other adjective I can think of.
In the middle of a pandemic, we also found ourselves face-to-face with the ugly truth of what systemic racism looks like in this country, and in the world. There was, and is, no hiding from the depths of the currents that run throughout everything we know, what we've been taught to believe, and how that conditioning has kept us blind (or dismissive) for far too long.
Now as we have entered into a new year, 2021 is presenting more amplification around racism, social injustice and the inequities very present in every system and our way of life. As we take time to celebrate and honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I truly hope we will do more than be grateful for a paid holiday.
My hope is that we will use today as a mark of distinction. A day to set a new intention and make a powerful declaration that today is the day we begin to dismantle the systems that don't serve the collective all. To make today a space to honor the FULL legacy of a leader, a voice, and an activist who, not only inspired, but urged us to take meaningful action.
In order to truly honor Dr. King's legacy, I believe there are three things we can do to pay tribute in a way that effectively and powerfully matters ...
1. Lean into educating yourself on systemic racism. Do the work to understand white privilege and your own biases.
There is no shortage of ways to become educated around the impact of systemic racism in this country and in the world right now. It is our responsibility (each of us individually and collectively) to lean into the resources available to understand the history of racism, the impact across all systems, and the current thread woven into everything we know in our culture.
Now, is the time to engage in open, courageous, connected conversations. It is time to be vulnerable and uncomfortable. It is time to listen. Really listen.
And, it is time to do all this with an open, courageous and soft heart and mind.
You will be triggered as you do this work.
Do it anyway.
You will feel small as you begin to fully understand your role (even if unconscious) as you begin to unpack your own biases and racism (yes, racism).
Do it anyway.
Here are some great resources to start your journey, continue to educate yourself, or take what you've done to the next level: https://globalhealth.duke.edu/resources-exploring-systemic-racism
2. Contribute in a way that directly impacts the Black community.
It's one thing to educate yourself, it's another to take real action. Change happens when we step forward, use our voice and support the work already going on to shift our current systems and dismantle racism, social injustice and inequity.
Volunteer. Donate. Support Black businesses.
Give of your time, talent or treasure ...
Whether you have money to donate to causes or not, you still can create ways to affect change and shift the course of what is happening all around right now. You can start within your local communities and own backyard (e..g., your schools, churches, chambers and rotary clubs ... just as a start).
You can organize groups to engage in courageous, connected conversations, book clubs to read the works of Black authors and to better understand both the history of racism along with the impact it has one those affected most, create petitions to share with your local representatives ..,. not to mention, a thousand other ways you can activate momentum forward.
All it takes is a small gesture. If each of us did one thing, the effect would compound quickly. As James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits, "If you were able to improve by 1% each day for an entire year and those gains compound, you would end up 37 times better at the end of the year."
37% better! Wow! Think about what 1% could do ... we ALL can commit to that!
Or, as Joel Manby, the former President and CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment HFE) once said, "Do for one that wish you could do for many."
It starts with one. One act. One action. One donation. One way.
If you want to volunteer your time, talent or treasure, here are 28 organizations that directly support Black communities: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/28-organizations-that-are-empowering-black-communities_n_58a730fde4b045cd34c13d9a
3. Read about ALL the work of MLK, beyond what has been distilled down by white history. Honor ALL aspects of him!
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a notable force and leader for civil rights and the fight against segregation and racism. However, most of what has been taught and what we shine a light on only is what has been whitewashed to present a Dr. King who only had a peaceful and quiet demeanor. When in reality, Dr. King strongly believe that we each have a moral responsibility and obligation to fight against injustice and systems that don't create equity.
While he deeply believed in the power of nonviolence, he also knew the power and necessity of taking action when called for. What we were taught, and what is often celebrated, about MLK's work is surface level at best.
When it came to rebelling against racism, Dr. King held the firm belief that this was an obligation to stand against those that choose to oppress. He sought many ways to establish nonviolent opportunities, and he also resisted oppression and refused to comply with any form of injustice and inequity.
In many of his speeches, he spoke words similar to those we heard the late John Lewis use when he mentioned "getting into good trouble."
For Dr. King, spoke words expressing his refusal and resistance to comply with injustice, racism, and oppression. Some of his prolific quotes included: "One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws." and "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
Many don't realize that Dr. King was arrested nearly 30 times between 1955 and 1965 for standing up for what he believed in and not staying silent. For taking real, meaningful action, and doing what was needed to fight the cause.
We have an opportunity to honor ALL his work, not just the pieces that have made us comfortable, especially from a perspective of white privilege. As we pay tribute to someone's legacy, we need to honor all the aspects that made that person a leader.
We need to see his humanness, his heart, his fire and his soul. It's only when we choose to take a comprehensive study on a man that we begin to truly understand the depths of what made his work great.
To learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and to view some of his notable work: https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/martin-luther-king-jr, and facts you may not know: https://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-martin-luther-king-jr
For quotes often left out or forgotten that showcase a more comprehensive insight into Dr. King's work and legacy: https://mashable.com/2016/01/18/martin-luther-king-jr-quotes/
With overflowing love and gratitude, Candy
To learn more about how you can be part of a community dedicated to learning how to effectively unpack racism, please consider joining our Facebook Unpacking Racism Community: https://www.facebook.com/groups/unpackingbiases