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An Introspect On The Meaning of MLK Day

An Introspect On The Meaning of MLK Day

Today is Friday, January 22, 2021. It’s almost a week after MLK Day. I didn’t post about Martin Luther King Jr last week. I always consider it, but I hesitate to ensure I “get it right.” I think we can all agree it’s quite easy to post something to social media and then go about our days. ​In a world where it’s become so easy to share thoughts and opinions, are we spending quiet time in reading, meditation, quality reflection and introspection in order to have something to say?​ This is my struggle with the quotes on Martin Luther King Jr Day. Are we all living those thoughts the other 364 days of the year? 

At the end of the evening I reflected on not having shared a quote or thoughts. Admittedly, I tend to feel a little self imposed shame around this reality because of my vocation in counter trafficking. Added on this identity is one of being a Memphian - I’ve grown up standing at the Lorraine Motel reflecting on my city being the one where MLK Jr.’s blood was spilled. My career is centered around the reality the world has consistently marginalised and exploited people - selling people for profit and gain since forever. This reality is more highly experienced by minorities. Our client caseload is primarily African American, young black girls and women who have fallen prey to lies: their bodies are worth more than their minds, their hopes, their dreams, and their futures. 

I spent the day visiting with a friend and her sons. Our boys, one black and one white, played in the backyard, taking turns on the slide and laughing with joy as they landed at the bottom. My friend’s son is older. Over the hour or so outside, he came to the door no less than three times to express concern as my two-year-old cried over falling too hard, the dog taking his ball, etc. Through this same time frame, my friend and I eventually began discussing injustices in the education system and how minority children are affected by unequal education opportunities at a higher rate than their white peers. Admittedly, at the end of the day as I reflected on having not posted a quote,​ I was grateful my day was spent sharing my home with a friend and dialoguing how each of us in our own way is striving to break cycles of injustice in our communities.​ She is a coach to teachers placed in our urban education system in Memphis, and I am a leader of a team of modern-day abolitionists. 

In ​Why We Can’t Wait​, Martin Luther King Jr. notes about the 1963 March on Washington, “Among the nearly 250,000 people who journeyed that day to the capital, there were many dignitaries and celebrities, but ​the stirring emotion came from the mass of ordinary people who stood in majestic dignity as witness to their single-minded determination to achieve democracy in their own time​… The enormous multitude was the living, beating heart of an infinitely noble movement. It was an army without guns, but not without strength. ​It was an army into which no one had been drafted​. It was white and Negro, and of all ages. It had adherents of every faith, members of every class, every profession, every political party, united by a single ideal. ​It was a fighting army, but no one could mistake that it’s most powerful weapon was love.” 

I want to strive every day to find myself with the conviction and joy of one who marched in Washington in 1963, steadfast resolve of those standing on the bridge at Selma, willingness as those stepping onto buses as Freedom Riders, and persistence of those sitting at lunch counters across the South. ​I want to find myself sharing my home with friends of my race and others all knowing we are an army whose powerful weapon is the love we share for one another and the man, woman and child who needs an advocate and a champion.​ Again, leafing through my copy of Why We Can’t Wait​, I’m struck with another quote I pray will be true in my lifetime:

“Just as a doctor will occasionally open a wound, because a dangerous infection hovers beneath the half-healed surface, the revolution of human rights is opening up unhealthy areas in American life and permitting a new and wholesome healing to take place. Eventually, the civil rights movement will have contributed infinitely more to the nation  than the eradication of racial injustice. It will have enlarged the concept of brotherhood to a vision of total interrelatedness, On that day, Canon John Donnes doctrine, ‘no man is an islande,’ will find its truets application in the United States.”

I want to be an active participant in the eradication of racial injustice and the elevation of civil rights. ​I want to intentionally create a home for my son to know he is loved and valued by people who look different than him - people who are concerned over his tears. I want my son to value the tears of others, regardless of understanding or differences. If someone is crying, I want him to respond with empathy, compassion, and, when appropriate, alert others to enter into the pain as well.​ I want to strive daily to create an atmosphere of value for all, to create opportunities for a potluck, places for everyone’s contribution and mutual kindness to have a place at the table.


Rachel Haaga

Executive Director

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