Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.

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This past weekend, in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr, I attended a celebration in his honor at a local Unitarian church, where I was graced with the presence of Nontombi Naomi Tutu. In light of the recent deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York City, and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, this event could not have come at a better time. People clapped and shouted “Right on!” as Tutu reminded us, in her mesmerizingly charismatic voice, “humanity is indivisible.”  She repeated this phrase again and again throughout her thirty-minute speech. She brought her own fears to the podium: because her son is seventeen, she said she doesn’t worry that he’ll go out and get into trouble; she worries what will happen to him because of the color of his skin. How many white parents worry that their sons will get shot because of the color of their skin?  Isn’t it correct to say that the black community is still not free, even though slavery ended one hundred fifty years ago in 1865?  They are not free in the sense that they must look both ways with extra caution when leaving the house. Unlike white people, especially white males, black people must work, often to no avail, toward privileged status. They earn less income than their white counterparts. Thirty- percent of black youth are unemployed (www.bloomberg.com/bernie-sanders). Tutu cautioned us, “Privilege costs you your humanity.” I gathered that she meant unearned privilege, as it makes us less aware, less empathetic perhaps. If humanity is indivisible then, as Tutu says, “We can only be free if we are all free.”

Before I left, I had the opportunity to thank Tutu for traveling to Vermont on a drab January day, for leaving me with vital words to chew on: “Injustice oppresses the oppressor at the same time it oppresses the oppressed.”

By the way, I even had the opportunity to hug her. She hugged me back and said, “I like hugs.”

What did you do on Martin Luther King Day that speaks to the indivisibility of humanity? (Indulging in sales does not count).

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