A Statement on the Nation’s Recent Tragedies

From Executive Director Aaron Grizzell
In the tragedies of the past ten days, our nation has witnessed a shocking sense of itself that brings us face-to-face again with a stark choice:  will we act in fear or in hope?

Will we retrench back into the isolated corners that make a unified community an unrealizable dream?   Or will we instead tackle the difficult work this moment demands and strive to truly become the nation we profess to be?

Fear is powerful.  It can lay bare a fatalism that often creates delusions of righteousness which ensnare our better selves into believing that violence can yield progress, order or harmony.  But hope is a strength that does not waver.  Rather, it moves us to confront uncomfortable truths and hard realities in constant action toward justice, love and peace.

It is this hope that moved Dr. King, Hon. John Lewis and a determined people in Selma, Alabama, to brave the injustice of state-sanctioned violence to capture the heart of a nation and world and move us toward a more just society under law through the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  And it is this same hope that inspires our youth today to reach for a brighter future by leading demonstrations against injustice.

These actions can at times feel uneasy and difficult.  For they speak to the suspended tension between the pain of perceived and documented economic, social and policing disparities in communities of color, the aspiration for a better future, and the efforts at expressing this pain and aspiration peacefully in the public square.  It is the voicing of the desire for a ‘more perfect union’.

So, when fear beckons for a return to a past rife with submerged tensions of racial and social intolerance, let us act by reaching toward our best selves and confronting these deep insecurities that stain the American fabric, understanding that “[w]e are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.  And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.  For [we] can never be what [we] ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”1

The recent events give us another opportunity to come to terms with these most pernicious problems harnessing the American ethos.  And we mustn’t miss this chance to address them for fear of the future.

So, let us all act in hope.

For “deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome….”2

1. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.
2. From the Civil Rights Era song “We Shall Overcome.” Lyrics penned by Zilphia Horton in 1947. The song was derived from the 1930’s gospel favorite entitled “If My Jesus Wills”, written by Louise Shropshire. For more detail see http://weshallovercome.org, http://www.npr.org/2013/08/28/216482943/the-inspiring-force-of-we-shall-overcome, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Shall_Overcome.

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