These are the welcome remarks Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center Director Beth Foster gave at the Unity Group‘s MLKing Interfaith Celebration at the Justice and Peace Center on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017.
Welcome to the Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center. We are so happy to have all of you here tonight to honor the memory and work of Dr. King and his role in shaping our political lives and spiritual journeys.
We are an interfaith community at Mercy Junction, committed to hospitality, peacemaking and social justice activism. Our community is made up of activists, artists and people of faith striving to organize, exist and support each other by creating new and different ways of being and serving the Beloved Community. We work together, honoring all creation, without hierarchy and practicing radical equality. The teaching, work and leadership of the Rev. Dr. King is a constant thread throughout our way of being, thinking and critiquing our work.
As we stand at the beginning of 2017 and the uncertainties that are before us in just the next few weeks, I am reminded that the same Dr. King who said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” also told America that she must be born again because of her sins of racism, economic exploitation and militarism and that the whole system must be changed.
“Somebody must say to America, America if you have a contempt for life, if you exploit human beings by seeing them as less than human, if you will treat human beings as a means to an end, you thingafy those human beings. And if you will thingafy persons, you will exploit them economically. And if you will exploit persons economically, you will abuse your military power to protect your economic investments and your economic exploitations. So what America must be told today is that she must be born again. The whole structure of American life must be changed.”
Dr. King told us that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism where tied together and that we could never defeat one without defeating all three. This year, this year when we are more uncertain than ever about what we may be called upon to do as people who believe in justice and then peace, this year marks the 50th anniversary of when Dr. King called for a Poor People’s Campaign.
“There are millions of poor people in this country with very little or even nothing to lose,” Dr. King said. “If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life.”
In 1967, Dr. King wanted to bring the poor to D.C., “We ought to come in mule carts, in old trucks, any kind of transportation people can get their hands on. People ought to come to Washington, sit down if necessary in the middle of the street and say, ‘We are here; we are poor; we don’t have any money; you have made us this way … and we’ve come to stay until you do something about it.'”
As we look at our activism, as we look to the future, we are forced to recognize that we are no further along toward defeating those three evils in 2017 than we were in 1967. We must take up that call Dr. King made all those years ago, for a new campaign that unifies all of us who are not in that 1 percent – no matter our skin color, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, citizenship or incarceration history.
As we look to the past and as we look to future, and we stand right here in the present where, more than ever, we are fearful about two weeks from now, and two months from now and two years from now, let us remember that Dr. King also said, “I can’t lose hope, because when you lose hope, you die.”
Let us gather our hope around us and go into those gathering clouds of fear and doubt that are the immediate future. Let us go and let each of us bring our hope as a light leading the way toward the creation of the Beloved Community.