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Movement is about change. Sometimes the causes change, the tactics change — even the leadership changes — but the constant in all of our movements is our quest to become more human: to change our communities and our societies to treat all of humanity fairly, justly and equally.
This especially holds true for this country which was formed by declaring that all individuals are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
A pretty lofty bar right from the start. More like a moving target, but a dream so bright, so noble, that people have fought, been imprisoned and died fighting for equality.
Across time there have been messengers that spoke of our core belief in equality, but perhaps one of the most powerful voices was that of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His words and actions sparked a movement that continues to inspire today.
There is often speculation as to what Dr. King would think of today’s world — an African-American president, the attack on voter rights, economic disparity, Ferguson, LGBTQ rights and marriage equality
I believe he would look at the loss of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and the protests in Ferguson and remind us that, “As a country we have learned that we are not defined by race, but we still must learn that race is defined by us.” In his vision and wisdom I believe he would expand on his original words to include sexual orientation/gender expression and demand justice for our transgender sisters and brothers.
He would look at the growing gap between the haves and have-nots, the economic disparity, and wonder why today this nation “continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift.” Would he be part of the “OCCUPY” movement, or march in Detroit against water shut-offs? Probably.
On Jan. 15, 2015, Dr. King would have been 86. I am willing to bet his birthday wish would be that dream — the dream he had for his four children back in 1963. But just as his vision evolved from those days in Selma to his days in Chicago, I believe his dream would have expanded to include not just his children but all people: black, white, brown, immigrant, transgender, gay or straight. His wish: His dream that we all would one day live in a nation where we wouldn’t be judged by the color of our skin, ethnicity, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation or gender expression, but by the content of our character.
As a nation, we celebrated Dr. King’s birthday on Jan. 19, 2015. For many, the actual date of his birth goes by unnoticed as we wait for that long holiday week-end. But this year, I like to believe that on Jan. 15, somewhere in the cosmos, Dr. King’s spirit once again made that “BIG” wish — the wish for this country to fulfill its destiny as a nation where all are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights that include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And as he made that wish, to the list he added the LGBTQ families for whom justice has been denied and/or delayed.
When the sun set on Jan. 15, families across Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee and the rest of the nation were wishing, hoping and praying for a decision by the highest court of the land. In our struggle for equality, the righteousness of King’s words rang true for our community too. Inspired and encouraged by the struggles of movements including the civil rights movement, we pressed on.
On Jan. 16 we moved one step closer to the dream’s fulfilment with the Supreme Court of the United States decision to hear arguments from the four states (including Michigan) arguing against states’ bans on same-sex marriage. Once and for all our families will have their day in court and SCOTUS will determine if all families matter.
I think Dr. King would acknowledge and congratulate this step in ending the second class status of LGBTQ couples and families. He might say that the marching of time, of truth and of men has brought us closer to a world that accepts all of God’s children.
But he would also caution us against complacency, against sitting upon our laurels for this victory and turning a blind eye to the challenges, inequities and disparities affecting our HUMAN family. Knowing the indignities, hatred and discrimination the LGBTQ community has experienced, we must look beyond our community in solidarity with others who are disenfranchised, always remembering what Emma Lazarus said: “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”
So as we celebrate this important step in our struggle for equality, let’s use this past holiday weekend as an opportunity to pick up King’s mantle, to be the change; through our love, let us be the light in the movement for all human rights.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.