We Need Another MLK Jr.

As we are nearing the end of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, MLK Day rolls around once again and while most of us are grateful for the momentary reprieve from the job or the classroom, I wonder how much time we’ll actually take today to “celebrate” the man that Martin Luther King Jr. was.

If you have a second, I’d love to honor this man with you by recalling his activism, his legacy, and then similarly contemplating what he would be fighting for if he were not a victim of 1968’s hate and violence.

photo by DiscoverBlackHeritage on Flickr

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Born in Atlanta, GA in 1929, Dr. King was a Baptist minister and civil-rights activist; he practiced nonviolence and believed in engaging in nonviolent protests to push back against the racial inequalities of his day (voting rights, labor rights, and desegregation for African Americans). Dr. King was inspired by the teachings of Quaker groups and also by Mahatma Gandhi, so much so that he visited Gandhi’s Indian birthplace in 1959. In a speech, Dr. King reflected on his trip to India: “Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.” (The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., 1992)

Through nonviolent activism, Dr. King was instrumental in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For his works of nonviolence and humanitarianism about racial prejudice, King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Four years later, Dr. King was assassinated in April of 1968.

If he were here today, I wonder what Dr. King would have said about the fact that slavery still exists on the very land that he fought and died on. I wonder what he would say if he knew that not all citizens shared equal rights today. I can imagine his anger would drive him to speak, protest, and advocate with his every breath.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, so here we are today….celebrating the life of a man who fought injustice in our country, while simultaneously raising awareness that we are not done yet.  We have not arrived. Not all people have rights. Not all people are free.

I don’t think that folks wake up and consciously think: “Today, I’m going to focus on demeaning someone, or say, how about I mix in a little discrimination into my schedule right after lunch?” But I do think silence, passive as it may be, is evil too. Dr. King said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Globally, we estimate there are currently around 27-30 million slaves. US law defines trafficking as: “An ACT or attempted act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person by means of force, abduction, fraud, coercion, purchase, sale, threats, abuse of power for the purpose of exploitation.” In 2011, 85 counties in Tennessee saw trafficking cases, with Nashville nearing the top of the list with over 100 cases of minor sex trafficking and 100 cases of adult sex trafficking. (Here are some more facts)

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Dr. King.

So what can we do in the face of such injustice and inequality? How can we nonviolently fight against violence?

We must look inside ourselves and stop being so afraid of our neighbor because fear causes hate. Then we must persist.

I love what Anne Lamott tweeted recently: “Someone’s already said what you & I are trying to say in our work; and said it better. We can just tell our truest version, in our voices.” I love this because I believe that most of what we write has already been written in the past, but if it’s a voice working for equality, justice, and love, then redundancy is a most precious and necessary thing. Even if we are producing overlapping and redundant words, we must keep persisting. Keep writing, keep speaking, keep advocating. Until all are free, we must not stop.  This is the dream we carry.

To raise your voice against human trafficking in TN, check out End Slavery TN’s website. They do amazing work and I’m so grateful for their advocacy in Tennessee.

For national or international opportunities to end trafficking, check out Not For Sale or International Justice Mission.

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Hallelujah!!!!



A HUGE advancement has been made in ending the reign of terror Joseph Kony’s LRA has inflicted upon northern Uganda. Having experienced the conflict, hell, and yet still beautiful refugees of Uganda, I am moved that my country is now helping end it. Thank you, President Obama, for making these invisible children, no longer invisible. Because the US is sending troops, we recognize that acts against humanity have taken place and that we, as HUMANS, not Americans, must fight for our African brothers & sisters.

Here’s the video link …it’s well worth 4 minutes. http://vimeo.com/30575828

Hate.

If you know me in the least, you know not to use the phrase: “love the sinner, hate the sin” around me. And you know that if you do use this special phrase in conversation, I will then muster of all the love that I can produce at that moment, and hopefully, lovingly express my strong aversion and repugnance for this phrase that has lingered in many pulpits over the years. I am of the opinion that there should be no hate involved anywhere in this process. Hate shouldn’t exist; it shouldn’t even be translatable in the English language. It should be taboo to hate anyone or anything. Take a second to think where hate has gotten us in history. Let’s not forget the most infamous: Adolf Hitler tops it off with his hatred and subsequent attempt to eradicate an entire gene pool, Maximilien Robespierre who brought about the “Reign of Terror” in France post Revolution, Idi Amin Dada: the evil Ugandan president, Pol Pot: the Cambodian leader of the Khmer Rouge, a group that successfully murdered 2 million Cambodians… one of the largest genocides in the world, let’s not forget Joseph Stalin of Russia who is now thought to have taken more lives than Hitler during his reign. Some of these men hated based on skin color/ ethnicity, some hated based on religion, some hated based on another man’s ideals, and some were simply evil, ruthless killers who enjoyed playing god… taking life at will.

What about Westboro Baptist church, the infamous church that protests homosexuality at military funerals while families are trying to bury their dead in peace? This is modern day hatred. Though I listed no American on the list above, America has its fair share of hate through the years. Hate of the native peoples here… look at Andrew Jackson’s forcing of the Cherokee and other tribes on what became known as the Trail of Tears. He hated Native Americans and he didn’t mind sending them on a cruel, west-ward trek during the dead of winter. What about our treatment of African Americans for years… for being the land of the free, America doesn’t have a great track record of not hating a race of people because of their skin. What about women? Women didn’t gain the right to vote until 1919… that was the same century that most of us reading this were born in. Women weren’t viewed as intelligent enough to be able to discern political beliefs and vote accordingly. How sad. (I still see women treated this way in the church, by the way). Anyway, I will digress from all the examples; I think it’s suffice to say that hatred has left wounds and scars on history that will never be able to be removed or forgotten. Black marks… blemishes… indicators of evil in the human race.

So don’t tell me to love the sinner, hate the sin. There should be no hate involved or we will be another generation that made the mistake of hating based on our categorization of someone. (Let me insert a comment here to also say not to misunderstand me: I believe in having one’s beliefs and morals; I am not encouraging a lack of any boundaries, I’m just asserting that some have gone to far with theirs). How many people hate another person and they’ve never even met that person? …never spoken to that person face to face.
But if you must have an intense dislike in your heart, then hate hunger, hate injustice, hate the selling of little girls into forced prostitution, hate unclean water, hate preventable diseases, hate rape, hate molestation, hate genocide, hate conflict diamonds. I’ll end with this quote by Anne Lamott: “And I realized once again that we’re not punished for our hatred… but by it.”

The Stoning of Soraya M.

A few nights ago, I went with some dear friends to a movie in an independent-movie hub in my city. I am thankful for such a theater, who is willing to show films that are hard to watch, ones which the viewers do not leave with the go-lucky-Saturday-night-movie mentality. Movies which are done with the motive, not of money, but rather, an expose of sorts. I salute the filmmakers for their bravery.

The Stoning of Soraya M, was just that. A stoning. It took place in Iran, and was completely in Farci, the beautiful Iranian language. In quick summation, Soraya was married to an evil man, who one day, all the sudden, “tired” of her. He had his sights set on another woman. However, in the Arab culture, even he had to jump through some hoops before he could get what he wanted.

After he forced her to take a job doing chores for another man, he then accused her of sleeping with the other man…a crime punishable by death by stoning in this rural Iranian, Islamic culture. She was, of course, innocent. She was a beautiful woman, a strong woman, who loved her children very much. He accused her… and in correlation with the law, she had to prove her innocence, rather than he prove her guilt. The male elders did not believe her story, when put up against a mans. And thus, sentenced her to die, by perhaps one of the most painful deaths imaginable.

The filmmakers did not spare their viewers any mercy. They showed everything. Every gruesome detail. The men came to get her, they buried her up to her waist. Then they let her father cast the first stone. He missed.

It is at this point, where I started weeping. Why? Because inside, I was BEGGING for someone to come save her. Her female friends were trying to save her. They couldn’t. No one would listen. I ached for someone, a foreigner or villager, to realize the evil that was happening, and step in to save her.

At this moment, I was reminded of the Christ. When a crowd was gathered to STONE a woman caught in adultery, he stepped in front of her. And wrote in the dust. Then said…”you who are without sin, cast the first stone.” Her accusers dissipated. They had no foundation on which to stay and carry out that hell.
Then Jesus said one of the most beautiful things in the New Testament to this woman. “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

He saved her life by stepping in front of her. This means SO MUCH MORE, now that I’ve seen The Stoning of Soraya M. Nobody stepped in for Soraya. She was, in every way, brutally murdered. This movie is a true story.

God forgive us, for our evil actions. For we do not have the power over life.

May we begin to see what Jesus really did for us. I think if we really knew, if we really knew what it was like to literally be murdered by large slabs of rock being catapulted at our heads over and over again, till we bled out… if we really knew this… perhaps we would not be so reluctant to emulate Christ’s love.