Martin Luther King Jr. Day: how to pick a fight

In the photo below, Lisa celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day with her mother, Barbara Smith and Osceola Williams, President of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women Clubs, Chester Club

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Today, like many across the world, I celebrate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Birthday. This morning I attended a breakfast program sponsored by the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club. And, later this evening, I’ll volunteer at a community center in recognition of the National Day of Service.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was a visionary. He is well-known for his commitment to nonviolence and peace, for being a drum major for justice, Civil Rights, and equality. His Letter from the Birmingham Jail provided clarity on his strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism. He won the Nobel Peace Prize. And his ‘I have a Dream’ and ‘The Mountaintop speech’– I believe, were the greatest demonstrations for freedom in the history of the United States.

Dr. King’s 6 Principles of Nonviolence

We started the program reciting Dr. King’s 6 Principles of Nonviolence; often recited in the 1950s and 1960s before civil disobedience actions and sit ins.

Principle 1: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.

Principle 2: Nonviolence means seeking friendship and understanding among those who are different from you.

Principle 3: Nonviolence defeats injustice, not people.

Principle 4: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform people and societies.

Principle 5: Nonviolence chooses loving solutions, not hateful ones.

Principle 6:  Nonviolence means the entire universe embraces justice.

Following the collective reading of the nonviolent principles, the speaker took the stage saying he’d be talking about ‘How to Pick a Fight’. This perplexed me at first, knowing that Dr. King was a peacemaker, not a fighter.

But the speaker, Rev. Alyn Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, provided us with 3 guiding principles, rooted in Dr. King’s nonviolent principles.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Lisa with guest speaker Rev. Alyn Waller.

3 ways to pick a fight

  1. Pay homage to those already in the fight.  Remember there was someone before us. In fact, we are probably standing on their shoulders. Recognize their work and contribution.
  2. Choose your battle. Everyone must find their fight. By fight, we were told to think about the area of need, where your involvement is essential, where confrontation is needed to affect a positive change. Use conviction, vigilance, humor, intelligence, and grace to lead to solutions that benefit the greater good.
  3. Choose your weapon. Of course, I’m not talking about a literal weapon.  We should use what is our strength, our gift, our talent. Education, speaking, organization, coordination, motivation – whatever ability to disarm, toward working together.

The breakfast program was an inspirational start to my day. As I choose my battles and weapons to bring about social change, I am mindful of the awesome contribution and achievements of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and what still needs to occur. In Dr. King’s words, I will remain committed and accept that I will face many obstacles and challenges, and encourage and inspire others along the way.

My ‘out of office’ message asks a familiar Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quote in my signature “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Surely a timeless question to ponder.

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