Today, we marked Martin Luther King Day with a convocation. Lots of music, inspiring speakers, and a stepping performance from the members of Alpha Phi Alpha (the Black fraternity that included MLK in its membership).
This is what we do every year, and yet this year was different.
The difference is palpable because this MLK day is not just a day to look back, but to look forward. By some strange circumstances, this year's MLK day falls just one day before the inauguration of the first African-American president in American history.
There has been this gap between Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama. Tonight, as I write this, I'm standing on the very edge of that gap. We, as a country, has done what many of us thought would not be possible. We were able to overcome the racism enough that we can trust an African-American with authority over our government and our lives.
However, as we leave that gap, let me remind you (and me) of a few things:
- Racism is still as rampant as ever before. For proof, you can look no further than the police brutality that happened in Oakland on New Year's Day. An unarmed man was thrown to the ground by police and shot in the back. We don't just erase a culture of bigotry, fear, and zenophobia with one election of one man into a high office. We won't be free of our prejuidice until we truly trust that all people are God's children and in need of our love and support.
- Barack Obama is human. There is no way that those of us who voted for him will be completely happy with him. Just as no Republican was completely happy with all eight years of George Bush in office, we will have days and times when we are disappointed. These disappointments may have already happened, even before Obama takes office. I think that it's important for us to continue to pray that our leaders discern and follow God's will, and we help to remind them that they are not infallable.
- Our country is in a dire situation right now. We are still at war, in case you have forgotten. The economy is taking away jobs and security for all of us, globally. There is no way that one man can fix that. There is no way that one congress can fix that. It is up to you and me to show kindness to our neighbor. We need to love and support one another. If our neighbor suffers, than we suffer as well. We can bring ourselves out of this recession if we all work together to create better communities and a safer world. It is not a responsibility we can simply push onto those whom we elected. It is our responsibility.
Martin Luther King Jr. made ending poverty a part of his civil rights campaign. Barack Obama is calling on us to serve our neighbor (sounds like something from the Bible, right? Or at least something that Martin Luther might say). Maybe we will pick up that work to end poverty.
I think that we have been given the opportunity to come together as a nation and a world. I want us to reach out to those who might oppose us. Build bridges of understanding. Get to know an enemy. People can't hate what they know.
I'm truly joyful tonight. Dispite all the trouble our world is in right now, I can feel hope in a way that I haven't felt in quite a while. I hope that we can listen to the voice of God, calling us to serve and love our neighbor.
I hope you are ready to move into a new era. Blessings on the closing of the gap.