Effecting Change

Reaching back into my archives to bring you a piece I wrote last year on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Birthday.

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On this day I encourage you to read and reflect on a speech delivered five months before I was born by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a celebration of a milestone in a battle, yet also a signal that the battle is not yet over. We’ve made some progress since then, but when the baton was passed on to our generation … what did we do with it?

Did we run till our feet got blistered or sore? Did we stand up for injustices in our homes, community, churches or jobs? Or did we pass the baton without even trying?

I’ve never been in the army but I have practiced marching for my “house: Melba” while at school in the West Indies. The same synchronicity and precision was needed and the “house” was as strong or as weak as its slowest, uncoordinated or day dreaming (yes me… LOL) member.

Instead of benching the slow, the uncoordinated or the day dreamer, under the guidance of the coach, the rest of the house encouraged and figured out a way to compensate for the lack of speed, coordination or concentration of that member until each was up to speed. This ensured that the weight of loss or victory of the “house” did not rest solely on the shoulders of the one member, but on the one who lead the house: the coach.

Our battle was waged against three other houses, one named Critchlow and two others, the names of which I can’t recall. Critchlow sticks in my mind, because they were the house to beat if Melba wanted to move into its rightful place as the #1 house on campus.

So we practiced, in public and in secret. Left, right, left, right, left, right, halt, one, two. We practiced turning our eyes (and heads) to the right on command. We were even so bold as to throw in a skip step. We practiced making our arms swing to shoulder height for every step we took, member by member practicing until there was total unison.

Now who knows that you don’t realize that you’re uncoordinated or how much skill it takes to walk and swing your arms in tandem, until someone tells you to slow it down or to do it in front of others?

Our Christian and civic duties are just like that. At times, we want to stand for what’s right, and that stand may take us out of our comfort zone so we delay it until “next time”. Or maybe, we might anonymously stand by convincing someone else to stand in our stead or writing an anonymous letter or maybe we just feel that one person cannot make a difference so we do nothing. Had Martin Luther King Jr. believed that fallacy, we would not now be living his dream.

Dr. King realized that there was need for practice, in public and in secret (prayer). He made sure that his skills were up to par by doing what was needed and then going the extra mile (education: high school, BA & PHD). He found a team (church) and they followed the instructions of their coach (God). As a result, spritual and civic change began to occur.

So now years later, on what would have been Dr. King’s seventy-seventh birthday. The question posed is: what have you or I done to effect a change for the next generation?

Change begins with you and me. Using Dr. King as an example, we need to catch hold of the vision that God has for our lives and then make our stand. When you and I are bold enough to take a stand, regardless of the discomfort, the feeling of being out on a ledge and the feeling of helplessness or maybe even hopelessness. I daresay that when we do venture out onto that ledge, we will meet others there, who ventured out as well and by joining hands, we will pull away from the edge … we’ll still be on the ledge, but we won’t be alone in the danger zone.

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Our God Is Marching On!
March 25, 1965. Montgomery, Ala.

My dear and abiding friends, Ralph Abernathy, and to all of the distinguished Americans seated here on the rostrum, my friends and co-workers of the state of Alabama, and to all of the freedom-loving people who have assembled here this afternoon from all over our nation and from all over the world: Last Sunday, more than eight thousand of us started on a mighty walk from Selma, Alabama. We have walked through desolate valleys and across the trying hills. We have walked on meandering highways and rested our bodies on rocky byways. Some of our faces are burned from the outpourings of the sweltering sun. Some have literally slept in the mud. We have been drenched by the rains. [Audience:] (Speak) Our bodies are tired and our feet are somewhat sore.

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