Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Spirit of Martin Luther King lives on....

I am sure Martin Luther would smile to see how his legacy and spirit are inspiring young people in our community to speak out prophetically about the needs of the poor, and to end war. 
This year Jill and I took part in the MLK celebration sponsored by the MLK Coalition which gives prizes each year to young people for art and essays honoring MLK.
We appreciated all the young people who received awards, but we were especially moved by a 14-year-Peace and Justice Academy student named Audrey Cameron, whose prize-winning essay is published below. Equally impressive was 11-year-old named Natalie Brown who spoke so eloquently and passionately about homelessness and the need for affordable housing that Jill asked her to come and speak at the City Council about the need for a Housing Commission.
Natalie agreed, and was one of ten people who gave public comments at the Pasadena City Council this week. We were all blown away by Natalie's caring heart, by her knowledge of the issues, and most of all, by her willingness to make a personal sacrifice to help the poor. At the end of her speech, she offered to donate her $250 prize money to help start a housing commission in Pasadena, and the City members along with the rest of us in the Council chambers were stunned. You can read Natalie's speech at Jill's blog:
A 28-year old Quaker named Cody Lowry also blew us away with a poem he composed extemporaneously while in the Council chambers.
Cody, along with two other MLK-essay-prize-winners, joined a delegation to Rep Chu's office that I wrote about in a previous blog entry. See
 What joy it is to give deeply caring young people like this an opportunity to share their views with elected officials, and to walk in the footsteps of Dr. King!
The Sacrifice of Dr. Martin Luther King
by Audrey Cameron
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist who sacrificed many things for the betterment of his community and the world. He is a role model and inspiration to us all. For me, as a Mennonite and pacifist, he is proof that great things can be accomplished without the sword. It was his dedication to civil rights that drove him to sacrifice so much, including, his time, his sense of security, and his right to self-defense, and eventually his life. Today I celebrate Dr. King's legacy of sacrifice and the hope for a better world it inspires.

Every volunteer in any movement gives up time for their cause, but Dr. King gave up an enormous amount over many years, which must have been hard for his family. His dedication to the Civil Rights Movement, and his selfless love for others, were what drove him to sacrifice so much time to be a husband and father.  As the leader of a powerful movement resisting people who gained from injustice, he received countless death threats, and so lost the freedom from fear that most of us take for granted. Worse still, he knew his family was targeted as well. Knowing that threat to his own wife and children revealed an even greater dedication to the movement. “I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear,” Der. King said. This shows that he would never have turned to violence. Finally, Dr. King gave his life to the cause. On April 4, 1968, he was shot dead by someone who opposed his beliefs—killed by the very hate he had fought against most of his life. Surely if Dr. King had lived, he would have forgiven his assassin like the Savior he served.

          Dr. King was not only dedicated to civil rights, he was also extremely passionate about peace. One of Dr. King’s goals was to draw attention to the futility of the Viet Nam War. Dr.  King risked losing supporters, including some of his closest friends, for standing up against the war. Most people viewed him as a moral hero for fighting against racism, especially in such a peaceful way, but on the other hand, they thought he was being unpatriotic for opposing the controversial war. Dr. King drew connections between the Civil Rights Movement and the Viet Nam War that made people uncomfortable. He challenged them   b  to see the truth, and to realize that the poor and minorities, including African Americans, were being disproportionally hurt by the war. They were not benefiting from it, yet somehow still made up a large proportion of those fighting in it. Dr. King said, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” This quote is fitting to put here because Dr. King wanted the Viet Nam was to stop so there could be peace and he demonstrated that by using peaceful strategies.

What am I doing for my community, culture, and world? I cannot claim to be as influential as Dr. King, but I do stand up for peace, serve my community, and strive to be my best self. I pursue peace, for example, by writing our government representatives. Recently, I wrote Representative Judy Chu, urging her to vote against a bomb strike in Syria. If Dr. King were alive today, he would have fought that proposal with the same determination he showed in opposing the Viet Nam War. I also pursue peace is by participating in the annual Pasadena Peace Parade—as I have done every year since the marches began just prior to the second Iraq war. Last year, I served my community by helping organize a blanket and canned food drive for the homeless and hungry. I also volunteer at a local homeless shelter, Union Station, making and serving meals to those in that transitional setting. For three years I have been part of the Thirty Hour Famine, a World Vision program in which participants endure hunger for thirty hours while raising money so others may have enough to eat. Lastly, I strive to be my best self. That may seem trivial, but I truly believe that achieving peace in the world is only possible once you have achieved it for yourself.

In conclusion, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an amazing man. He gave us all the challenge of trying to be our best selves and stood up for his beliefs in ways I am just beginning to understanding now.  “If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live,” he said. The world has become a better place thanks to the work and dedication of Dr. King.

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