by Kathi Szabo
Thirty-six years ago today, our country first honored civil rights leader and activist, Martin Luther King Jr. A man that at the time, I knew little about. Oh yes, I knew who he was and I knew he spoke his famous, I have a dream speech, and I knew he was assassinated when I was yet 4 years old. But I truly did not have an understanding of racism or more importantly, I did not truly understand his dream.
January 20, 1986
It was my senior year of college at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. A racially mixed school, with a strong black Greek community, that worked side by side with their white brothers and sisters. Although our Greek organizations were segregated by color, we came together at Inter-Greek Council and my memories recall mutual respect across our organizations. It was this council that organized the events for this inaugural celebration of a man who brought injustice and inequality to the forefront of America in the 1960s.
But I didn’t attend the rally. It was organized not even a week prior, at the IGC meeting the Thursday prior. And although my very good friend and sorority sister worked to garner support from our sorority, I did not have the time.
I can’t tell you what was so important, but I can still see Lauren on the house speaker in the foyer, motivating our sisters to attend the rally. I remember that I didn’t go. What was so much more important, I have no idea.
In my young mind, I didn’t see the need. I didn’t truly understand the meaning of diversity, inclusion, racism, and inequality. Although I knew it existed. In my own family, I witnessed racist slurs from the time I was a young child. But for whatever reason, I believed racism was a thing of the past. As I mentioned previously, I saw black and white working together as one Greek Community. I was naive. I had no understanding that racism was still brewing deep in our country.
Accept the Past – Be Present
I am not ashamed to admit my lack of understanding and awareness. For it is from this place of accepting ourselves, our mistakes, and our lack of intelligence, that we can move forward. We can bring light to the world as we bring light to ourselves. I know I still make mistakes today, but it is with my heart that I listen.
As my life progressed, I slowly began to realize the symbolism of this holiday. The importance of Martin Luther King Jr. The importance of the civil rights movement. And acknowledging how far we have come as a nation. But also how far we still must go.
If mindfulness has taught me anything, it is to live in the present. To do all we can, TODAY. And that is where I am today. Not looking back on what I could have done, but what I will do today.
Martin Luther King Jr had a dream. His dream was not to bring the atrocities of racism to the forefront of American Life. No, his dream was “that one day this nation will rise and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
We honor a man who never gave up his dream. Who fought with his heart. Who understood that justice comes only when we combine love and power. “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
Becoming A Light
Let us all take time today to not only honor this man and this movement but to also go inward. To connect with our Self and perhaps contemplate how we can become a light for others.
Mindful Magazine (mindful.org) is a nonprofit publication focused on improving health and relationships through a mindfulness practice. They sent an email to subscribers this morning with three practices to help us honor and take action on this day of service and remembrance. I share them with you in hopes that we may live the dream of Martin Luther King Jr in our lifetime. That we may all be “free at last.”
1. Explore the truth of interconnectedness.In this 12-minute practice, Ruth King invites us to loosen up the tight boundaries of identity and difference that we often tend to see the world through: “I am you and you are me, yet we forget this truth,” she says.
2. Let your awareness transform into wise action.Michelle Maldonado guides us in this practice that, she says, is designed “to help bring about three key insights: clarity of intention; understanding of our power, presence, and impact; and opportunities for wise action-taking.”
3. Come home with loving-kindness.By cultivating loving-kindness around racial justice, both for those people whom we admire and those we don’t feel so aligned with, we can hold on to the thread of our common humanity. “The invitation now,” says Rhonda Magee, “is to imagine all of us, one common human family wherever we are, on the ark of awakening to our role in the work of doing racial justice together.”