Welcome to Mimi’s Musings, a commentary column from WI Managing Editor Micha Green, that goes beyond her work as a journalist and editor, and dives into the storyteller’s thoughts and worldview.
In contrast to holidays encouraging Americans to relax, spend money or gather with family, the federal holiday in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., also known as MLK Day, emphasizes service and action. While many people don’t have to go to work and school, justice advocates note that the King holiday is a day on, not off.
I was honored to have the opportunity to speak at Millbrook School, a private, co-ed boarding school in Stanford (or Millbrook) New York. My longtime friend and Millbrook’s Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Prince Botchway asked me to moderate a panel with the theme the “Power of Love.”
Inspired by an excerpt from King’s “Where Do We Go From Here,” speech in August 1967, the panel focused on King’s notion that power and love work together.
In the beginning of his address, King says philosophers and theologians have given the concepts of power and love a bad rap. He references Nietzche’s will to power, which, in thought, requires the absence of the Christian ideals of love. He adds Christian theologians reject the notion of power in upholding religious values. King encourages the audience of primarily preachers to correct that narrative.
“Now, we got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic,” he said. “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”
If love is King’s solution to achieving justice, then I contend that love in action was the civil rights activist’s true dream.
The famous, “I Have a Dream Speech,” (1963) lists King’s visions for an equal society: much of which has been achieved without the full equity for which he hoped.
King dreams, “one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” While Georgia boasts booming Black communities and a Black U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D), in 2021 Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed legislation that disproportionately hurt voters of color – an act many called a form of voter suppression.
Achieving equity requires more than being able to dine at the same table as white Americans, it’s about having a level playing field before being invited, maintaining a seat, and feeling comfortable to break bread at the proverbial table – even despite differences.
Love in action is being able to sit at the table and grapple with the differences in a way that promotes growth and inspires a renewed way of navigating challenges.
King’s ideals on love and power offer a guide to equity and overall justice.
In the panel at Millbrook, panelists Alpana Chhibber, Kojo Clarke, Dwight Vidale and Bria Horsely built on one another’s ideas of love in action, noting: listening, asking questions, humility, and being courageous to create space for change are all ways of furthering equity conversations.
It’s not always easy to listen, ask questions not loaded with judgment, or work with those with whom we disagree, but that’s when the power of love comes into play. Leading with love is the light guiding us through the dark tunnel of scary differences and ignorance.
Leading with love was King’s true hope for us, to not only achieve civil rights, but to continue to guide us through modern challenges, such as systemic racism, attacks on reproductive rights, environmental injustice and the fight for reparations.