Why We Can’t Wait – Recap of the Week
Why We Can’t Wait – Recap of the Week
Taylor Starks, Assistant Director of Spiritual Formation
“For hundreds of years the quiet sobbing of an oppressed people had been unheard by millions of white Americans—the bitterness of the Negroes’ lives remote and unfelt except by a sensitive few. Suddenly last summer the silence was broken. The lament became a shout and then a roar for months no American, white or Negro, was insulated or unaware. The stride toward freedom lengthened and accelerated into a gallop, while the whole nation looked on. White America was forced to face the ugly facts of life as the Negro thrust himself into the consciousness of the country, and dramatized his grievances on a thousand brightly lighted stages. No period in American history, save the Civil War and the Reconstruction, records such breadth and depth to the Negro’s drive to alter his life. No period records so many thaws in the frozen patterns of segregation.” (King, 1963-1964, pp. 135-135)
Written by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963, Why We Can’t Wait chronicles the heart and soul behind the nonviolent displays of resistance in Birmingham, Alabama. Though African Americans were physically free from the bondage of slavery, a new freedom awaited in the fight for dignity, opportunity, and equity in an environment plagued by the heartache of “silent waiting” (p. 17). The timelessness of King’s words is evidenced in the brokenness of our world today as we share in his legacy and fight for justice in our own community.
It goes without saying that the challenges of a global pandemic shaped much of 2020. In addition to revealing the fragmented structures of our healthcare and political systems, we were also faced with a growing humanitarian crisis that brought us to a point of “silent waiting.”. We watched as thousands were impacted by the severities of Covid-19, many hanging on to the hope that with patience, they would receive financial relief, good health, and a sense of stability. As concerns about our physical and emotional well-being grew, our nation became more divided than ever with unfounded questions regarding the value of life and the worth of an individual. Moving into the summer months, we witnessed the climax of those tensions as the cries for justice could no longer be ignored.
On May 6, 2020 many of us were met with the news that Ahmaud Arbery was violently gunned down as he went on his morning jog—the news breaking nearly 10 weeks after the incident occurred. The following week’s reports of Breonna Taylor’s death were made known as her family took initial steps to file a wrongful death lawsuit against three Kentucky police officers. Two weeks later on May 25, 2020 the world watched as George Floyd made desperate pleas for breath as he was murdered and put on trial in the court of public opinion. In the months that followed, unrest grew across the nation as the gallop toward freedom turned into a full-blown sprint—with many of our own students channeling their frustrations into action and advocacy. As we prepared to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King this year, the theme Why We Can’t Wait seemed fitting to honor the legacy of Dr. King, and those committed to the work of pursuing justice.
This celebration provided platforms for students, faculty, and community members to share their efforts toward justice and awareness in virtual roundtables with our FPU community. After sitting in on each of these conversations, it became clear that those leading are individuals who embody the notion that they are “somebody” (p. 21)—not filled with arrogance, or motivated by selfish ambitions, instead, they posses a deep conviction that all humans are worthy of freedom and possess great dignity and value. Because of those convictions, they are committed to ignoring the need to wait passively for change and fight to pursue it actively in their day to day lives.
A big thank you to our Multiethnic Association for Cultural Engagement (MACE) Student Team, Athletes of Color Alliance, Reverend Karen Crozier, Ph.D., Angie Barfield, and Dr. Deshunna Ricks for leading the charge and challenging us to think beyond ourselves in such pressing times. The recordings of these roundtable discussions can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/channels/1673399.