June 6, 2018
“We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will perish as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable net of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”
—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Monday, June 4, I participated in the New York Poor People's Campaign and action at the State Capitol in Albany. I joined New Yorkers from across the state to march, protest chant and sing songs of liberation. We stood together in the State Capitol and let our voices echo through the halls as we called out the evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, and the outright denial of health care for all. We gathered in the hallways, stairways and in front of doorways, singing, "Somebody's hurting my people, and it's gone on far too long. And we won't be silent anymore." We used our bodies and our voices to urge our government to be morally courageous leaders.
Monday, June 4 was also the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, when the Chinese government soldiers began shooting into crowds of nonviolent college students protesting for human rights, freedom and democracy. The million students packed the Square for 6 weeks, using their bodies and their voices to urge their government to be morally courageous leaders. I remember these events clearly, watching British and US news reporters scramble to report the events as they unfolded. I remember my father, wandering through the house like a ghost and openly weeping as his homeland ruthlessly suppressed the voices of young people. He mourned the death and disappearance of hundreds of brilliant young leaders, and the death to the burgeoning possibility of a new China.
I like to think that if my life circumstances were different and I was a Chinese citizen in 1989, I would have been in Tiananmen Square, agitating for human rights and joining the hunger strikes. However, I am a US citizen in 2018, and I have spent enough time watching in horror as our people drink poisoned water, are forced to live in urban and rural squalor with little access to an equitable education or dignified employment. I have watching our nation refuse aid to Puerto Rico, who are now 258 days without full power. I have read enough stories of black and brown children ripped from their homes and their mother's arms at our borders and in our child welfare offices. Though this country does not recognize the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for ALL of her people, I recognize my right to demand my country to do what is morally right for ALL of her people.
So on Monday, I marched with poor people. Tomorrow, MLK Institute will continue to address the root of systemic racism. The day after that, we will encourage you to stand in solidarity with all of us. We do not need to wait for anyone else to repair the broken soul of our nation. We can rise up with moral courage and leadership today!
What can you do? Get educated! We cannot address root causes of immoral and systemic injustice if we don't have the knowledge.
Get active! Use your body, use your voice! Write a letter to your legislators about an issue that concerns you. Meet up with people who are learning new skills like you! Join the NY Poor People's Campaign!
In Solidarity with you,
Rev. Doris K. Dalton Executive Director, MLK Institute for Nonviolence