A Reflection on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2021

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States. A day created to honor the life and accomplishments of Dr. King. His life and work as an influential civil rights leader, as someone who is recognized for advancing the civil rights of minorities. Today is often known as a Day of Service. A day used to help raise awareness, mobilize volunteers, provide individuals an opportunity to engage, and to build new connections.

  • image of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

A Reflection

One year at our state convention, I had my girls with me and one of them was walking with me as we looked at the displays. (I know for those of you who know me, this does not really narrow down the year but let me assure you the exact year does not matter.) I remember standing at a trifold display, and my girl commented about how she was glad “that” didn’t happen anymore.

I cannot tell you what “that” was on the display. I cannot honestly remember. But I do remember a woman looking at the display with us, and then looking over at my child with a look of, “Child… how do you not know???” I remember feeling horrified. I respected this woman, who I knew had seen so much more than I knew even at that time, that racial tensions had not gone away. That is is only through our privilege that my fair-skinned child had no idea yet at that point in her innocent life, that even just that year racial tensions had been brought only briefly into the media spotlight. I did know, and from that point on I knew I had to remedy that understanding.

I recognize the privilege that my family has of being a much fairer complexion than many of the American Baptist Women of NYS that attend our yearly conventions. I recognize the privilege of trying to not traumatize my young child in the process of giving her the necessary understanding of racial tensions that existed then and still sadly exist, in this world. I mourn for my friends who have had to educate their children from a young age or explain traumatic events as they have unfolded too close to home, and I have strived to educate my girls, but it often – especially this last year – has not felt like enough.

Enter 2020 and 2021

This last year has been different in so many ways. Today in this traditional Day of Service, many of us are not doing a day of service out and about, because our communities are suffering from the COVID pandemic. We are trying to keep each other safe.

This year is also different because of the highlight that has been placed on the plight of the perceived minority over the course of the last year by mainstream media. Instead of the awareness being relegated to only a Monday in January, or the month of February, awareness has been a process throughout the last year. Despite stereotypical thoughts, the perceived minority is in fact the majority affected in so many different ways. Thankfully despite an effort to gloss over an issue, or sweep it under the rug, there has been a continued focus to keep the inequality of perception vs reality at the forefront of the news.

Awareness of the inequalities of healthcare, of police response, of our own communities struggling with the hard questions on how we support those perceived differently than us. How to take a stand when you know something is wrong, but your discomfort level is high. We need this to stay in the front of our minds, so we can help make the change.

A friend of mine shared this image, created from the speaking of Sedruola Maruska, and I realized that despite all I’ve been trying to do… I’m still on that line in between. I know I’ve grown so much from where I was years ago, but it isn’t yet far enough.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CKIA5DPMUlh

Beloved Community

Martin Luther King Jr called for a vision of Beloved Community. That vision is creating solutions to social problems, building bridges, and strengthening communities.

This is something we as American Baptist Women have strived to do for years. Our efforts of Beloved Community focus on matters of Relationship, Leadership, Ministry, Culture, and Education. The efforts of this have brought webinars on Addiction, Courageous Conversations, Avenues to Wholeness, and the upcoming Spring 2021 webinars on Addressing Needs and Teaching Resilience.

American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse protestant populations. Our own AB Women’s Ministries of NYS is built with three different American Baptist Church regions. Diversity in action within our community.

Why speak up?

I know it is late on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but the reflection I wrote above, came to me at breakfast. I wrote it quickly down on my phone, and then the job of being mom called. At one point I thought perhaps I wouldn’t get to writing this post.

However, in the course of the day, other pieces listed below as resources have shown up reminding me of my reflection and pushing me to speak up today, even if the day is technically almost over. So while it would have been ideal for inspiration to strike a few days before so I could really think about and really polish this post, I hope you will understand the calling I felt to write and finish it tonight. Whether you see this on the actual day of Martin Luther King Day in January 2021, or sometime later the message remains the same. There is work to be done.

Resources

Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, tweeted this on January 15th.

{The above says… “Pastors and Preachers: When you tweet about my father’s birthday & on #MLKDay, remember that he was resolute about eradicating racism, poverty & militarism & believed that the church should lead in that work. We will be the participants in making it so!” There is then a video with different scenes of Dr. King. link: https://twitter.com/BerniceKing/status/1350260342832640009}

The King Center, and the vision of “a world that reflects the Beloved Community where all people are valued, respected, and treated with dignity.”

ABC Resources

This morning a friend shared this episode of “Justice, Mercy, Faith” as several members of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies staff reflected upon the quotations by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The episode includes contributions from, Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, Rev. Dr. Marilyn Turner-Triplet, Dr. Jeff Johnson, Rev. Brittany Graves, Christian Citizen Editor Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, Jennifer Sanborn, Rev. Rebecca Irwin Diel, Rev. Salvador Orellana, Rev. Kadia Edwards, Michaele Birdsall, Rev. Dr. Patricia Murphy, Rev. Dr. Eddie Cruz, and Susan Gottshall.

A letter was put out by the ABC Anti-Racism Task Force. Their letter begins as:

In this season of unrest and turmoil, we gather today to remember the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As American Baptists we like to claim him as our brother, but far too often we have fallen short of the scope of his dream.

https://www.abc-usa.org/2021/01/prayer-for-truth-and-action-from-the-abc-anti-racism-task-force/

I am looking forward to the steps toward the future of making our denomination “become a true embodiment of Dr. King’s Dream”.

What is next?

I have tried to write this all day. I just hope it has all come out okay. I am always trying to listen. I encourage you to listen. I encourage you to reflect on the work that still needs to be done; at the national level, the state level, the community level, and even our church and own individual house levels. I encourage you to speak up, because sometimes the hardest thing to do is, to speak up.

Blessings, Rebecca

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