One thing people seem to misconstrue about Martin Luther King Jr. is that he was exclusively concerned with African American rights and causes. While this was the primary area he championed, Dr. King was concerned with equality for all people, something he made clear through his speeches and writings. Since I have been in the position of Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Alpha Gam, I have been praying a lot about how the Lord can work through me in this role. I often find myself coming back to Dr. King’s autobiography and teachings, which are relevant to every person, regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or background.
My favorite Dr. King speech is “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” It was the last speech he gave before he was killed, and it is clear during the speech that he was aware of the imminent danger posed to him. This speech has to be one of the most powerful ever delivered. Dr. King gives us a true gift: words to live by in our hardest moments. He says that he doesn’t fear death because he has been to the mountaintop- a metaphor for spiritual satisfaction and peace. It is easy to get discouraged by the racial history of the Panhellenic community. Panhellenic sororities did not desegregate until 2013, a scarily recent year. The roots of racism lie deep within the Greek community as well as the University of Alabama at-large. What gets me through the hard moments when I think about this dark history is recognizing that, just as Dr. King said, “we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” Diversity and inclusion efforts at this university are going to take time. Achieving basic civil rights for African Americans took 350 years. But I find hope in the fact that the Lord is sovereign, and that even if I am not here to see it, the vision we have for this university will be realized.
I encourage people to reflect today on what it means to honor Dr. King’s legacy. Everyone has benefited from his life’s work. As Dr. King is quoted saying, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Many rights that we enjoy as women would not have been accomplished without the foundation laid by Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. He set the precedent that any type of inequality was unacceptable. I encourage people to resist the urge to see today as a holiday, but instead take the time to understand why we celebrate his life and participate in activities that commemorate him. This could be serving in the community, listening to his speeches, reading “Letter From A Birmingham Jail,” etc…) All of these things will help us to be better people, as Dr. King will teach us to serve each other, love well, and “never be afraid to do what is right.”
My Favorite Resources:
In addition to these resources, The University of Alabama's center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has organized a day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.