Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a fitting anniversary to cut through decades of whitewashing and remember the truth about how Dr. King was regarded in the civil rights era, the truth about the ferocious pushback from white supremacy through systemic racism in the intervening years and the truth that people of color, especially black people, remain as viciously oppressed today.
On this anniversary, I'd like to remember the entirety of Dr. King's legacy. The current crisis in the United States has finally reawakened millions of social justice warriors who are standing up, marching and joining hands with activists who never gave up the fight. Fear is understandable in the face of powerful oppressors, and yet we must do it anyway. Living in a society which oppresses so many of our neighbors and not standing up or speaking out is to be complicit with the oppression. Courage is rising, millions are recognising that, as Dr. King said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere", and silence is not the answer.
Today is also the birthday of Maya Angelou, writer, poet and civil rights activist. Her words and her life are a guiding light to people everywhere who seek courage, wisdom and justice. For inspiration on this Wednesday in the midst of trying times, read one of Ms. Angelou's most famous poems.
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
|A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling|
is detained by law enforcement in Baton Rouge
photo Jonathan Bachman/Reuters
’Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I leave you with another offering from Michael Franti & Spearhead, from the album Stay Human.
"...the harder they hit us, the louder we become,
kinda like the skin on a drum..."
Skin On The Drum
I was born botanical
the soul of an animal
deep beneath the layers, I sink my roots
no need for mechanical
I come strictly organical
when I need to feast, I look to the East
that's why I'm never scared of the beast
even though they try to prey upon me
I'm protected by the one always greater than me
so now I reveal to thee
because you wanna see
the contour of my mystery
the strength of my arches
the colour of my conscience
and the way that I process my diction
some fact some fiction some mystery
some future fantasy
I'm the trunk that holds the branches
the leaves who do the dances
my flowers romantic
my love gigantic
from Africa, transplanted transatlantic
in the heat of the sun
I bring shade for everyone
like the beat on the one
I'm the skin on the drum
I keep on living with the fullness of the one
like the heat of the sun or the skin on the drum
- Lorin G. Ashton/Michael Franti