Building a Movement that Honors Dr. King’s Legacy
Today, I find myself contemplating how our anti-violence movement is embracing the lessons of Dr. King’s principles of non-violence and theory of non-violent social change.
Dr. King was one of the most visionary architects of movement building and social change in modern history. He was an incredible strategist who knew how to leverage opportunities and mobilize people. Perhaps most remarkable though, was his ability to call upon the very best in people and inspire them to change. This ability was rooted in his deep commitment to the Beloved Community, in which we are able to see and love the humanity in one another, without exception. Only then, he believed, would we achieve justice for all.
If you are acquainted with Move to End Violence, you have undoubtedly heard us invoke the concept of Beloved Community. This concept resonates deeply with us as what is needed if we want a world in which every last girl is valued, respected and able to reach her full potential.
But how do we create Beloved Community? For one thing, it is not something “out there”. Change that others need to make. It starts with us. To borrow a phrase from Movement Maker Nan Stoops, it is about the grace we have with ourselves and others. It is about having the courage and determination to see the humanity in one another and to choose love. Not some saccharine kind of love; but love as a force for justice. Dr. King said: "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."
"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.-Dr. Martin Luther King"
As social justice advocates seeking to build a powerful movement for change, what is our relationship to love? My sense is that love is often perceived as weak, as a privilege, or at the very least as something personal, distinct from our political work. In the face of overwhelming injustice, we all too often allow our anger and rage and pain to become a righteous fire that burns down not just the house of our opponents, but our own house as well. For me, the goal is not just to learn how not to burn our own house down (although that is a big component of our self care work!) it is also about shifting to a place where we realize that the goal is not to burn down the house of our opponents either.
The transformational shift that Dr. King asked us to make was to see our shared humanity and work toward Beloved Community. To direct our fight “against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies and unjust acts, but not against persons”. To believe that our opponents are not evil, their acts are evil. That they are victims of the same systemic oppressions that we are all suffering under. To truly win justice, we need to call forth the very best in ourselves and our opponents. Only then will we truly engage everyone in shifting the conditions that oppress us all.
I hope that as we continue on this journey to build a powerful movement for justice, we do so in a way that will honor Dr. King’s legacy; with love, a deep belief in humanity, and for the purpose of building beloved community.
For more about Dr. King’s philosophy, please visit The King Center.