With Love, We Will Resist
NAACP’s Jacqui Patterson reflects on MLK’s vision of resilient, liberated spaces.
By Jacqueline Patterson
Opening Remarks from Interfaith Moral Action on Climate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Interfaith Service, March and Rally at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and Lafayette Park on Sunday, January 15, 2016.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. provided for us a diagnosis of the triple societal scourge of militarism, materialism and racism that transcends time as they are ever present today. Dr. King also gave us the vision of the Beloved Community, a specter of hope in the midst of despair.
For many, these hours, these days, these times, seem dark, as we see the devastating evidence of the triplet all around us. The menace seems to be surging with the viral outbreak of emboldened hatemongers and the further institutionalization of bigotry, xenophobia, islamophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and so much more. For example we have these cabinet appointments, each more outrageous than the last. In an official work memo on Friday, I likened one appointment to putting Satan in charge of the Office of Faith Based Affairs. These ridiculous appointments, combined with the takeover of Congress, are then advancing the corresponding roll-back of protectionist policies and regulations. And now the the strengthened proliferation of the war on other nations, the war on women, the war on Muslims, the war on communities of color, the war on indigenous people, the war on black men, and so much more is assailing our society.
We see militarism as a tool of imperialism and the price is paid by the children of Aleppo, the women in the Sudan, the families in Iraq, and the neighborhoods of Afghanistan. We see militarism in the United States with the National Guard take-over of Baltimore, MD as people rose up to cry out against yet another killing of an unarmed African American man and were met with tanks and riot gear. And then we saw the armed assaults by water cannons, teargas, concussion grenades and pellet guns on the Water Defenders at Standing Rock when they were only seeking to peacefully protect sacred land, burial grounds, and drinking water. Water is Life.
We see materialism in the foundation of many of these very wars, too often fought over riches with the guise of “defending liberty” or “maintaining security” or “protecting freedom.” While reckless extraction to maintain lifestyles of excess also means drilling that is destroying our seas, fracking that is defiling our land, and burning which is poisoning our air. And one of the many costs we pay is the proliferation of climate change. With NOAA set to announce this coming Wednesday that 2016, for the 3rd year in a row, was, indeed, the hottest year on record. All around we have continued to experience weather impacts with just in the past few weeks freak ice storms, subzero temperatures, record heat in Florida and torrential downpours flooding the West, all while the seas continue to rise displacing communities from Louisiana to Benin. Mother Earth Weeps From the Assaults by Corporate Greed.
We see racism everywhere and we see the intersections with both militarism and materialism. Materialism is what brought me into existence, as my ancestors were brought to this hemisphere as stolen commodities in the hulls of ships to be used for cheap labor. People of color are still used for cheap labor today, while being systematically segregated from the bounty of resources we have created. From redlining to modern day gentrification, from captured lands from our indigenous relatives, to eminent domain, these are the same practices with new names. It is our same communities that are most likely to dumped on and contaminated by the factories, and the power plants, and the landfills for the production and disposal of those very excesses of materialism. And it is communities of color that most often pay the price for the wealth building of others resulting in our communities often rendered as “sacrifice zones” as we give up our very lives to the cancers, the asthma attacks, the heart disease associated with pollution. We are too often denied the most basic of human rights to clean air, clean water, uncontaminated land, or even the right to walk down the street without being profiled, brutalized and, in all too many cases, killed in cold blood. Black Lives Matter.
But at the same time, we see the emergence of Dr. King’s vision of the Beloved Community in the resistance, in the organizing, and in the rise of fierce, radical love.
We see the Beloved Community in the surge of Sanctuary Schools, Sanctuary Cities and Sanctuary States offering refuge to those being further pushed to the margins as they are targeted by oppressive policy making and practices. These sanctuaries declare safe spaces where all are welcomed and protected. What a blessing!
We see the Beloved Community in neighborhoods and municipalities across the country that are leading a Just Transition from extraction and domination to cooperation and resilience by creating local jobs, growing their own food, generating their own clean energy, recycling their waste, ensuring public access to clean water, developing cooperative, affordable housing and land ownership, all with a view towards resilient, liberated spaces where all lives matter and all rights are honored.
We see Beloved Community in the Movements that are beginning to awaken to the need to be explicitly anti-oppressive and anti-racist. Slowly, slowly, people in the movements are waking up to the fact that they can’t just adopt the Jemez Principles and claim in word to be anti-oppressive, but we must apply intentionality and make a deeper, invested commitment to transformative anti-oppression in order to actualize the principles we espouse.
We see Beloved Community in the leadership of the Standing Rock Sioux and so many others who have come before them and will come after in resisting and defending indigenous rights and defending sacred earth against the scourge of reckless greed.
We see Beloved Community in the Fierce, Fabulous, Nasty Women who are gearing up to gather next Saturday a few blocks away to resist a misogynist agenda, unite around a vision for equal rights for women, and shine a light for girls to follow to ensure that they know that beauty comes from within and that they have the power to achieve their dreams.
We see Beloved Community in the Random Acts of Kindness that we hear about every day whether it is paying someone’s meter, offering someone shelter, giving a stranger a hug, or just yesterday when I was in an elevator with a woman with a baby and a fellow started to get on and then backed out again saying that he has a cold and didn’t want to infect the baby. Every act of kindness, big or small, adds up.
Finally, we see Beloved Community in YOU who are all gathered here today and this week as people of many faiths and/or just people of deep consciousness and compassion, all with a common aim and a common commitment to push back against oppressive forces and push forward with progressive action.
So in today’s service we will hear from amazing speakers joining us, from tribes/nations, mosques, temples, and churches, and from the frontlines of struggle. They will share their perspectives, experiences, and analyses of whatever aspects they choose to highlight around the theme of the triplets of militarism, materialism, and racism, as well as their visions of the Beloved Community. Interspersed throughout, in song, we will all lift our voices in a joyous harmony of tenors, altos, basses, sopranos, and falsettos, each of which represents the respective and unique gifts we each bring to the rich and diverse tapestry of the movement. Then, as we sometimes must, we’ll take it to the streets, and march to the White House where we will lift our voices in speaking truth to power. Forward Together…Not One Step Back!
WITH LOVE, WE WILL RESIST
Jacqueline Patterson is the Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Island Press Urban Resilience Project, with support from The Kresge Foundation and The JPB Foundation.