“Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Many of us welcomed the new year with cautious hope mingled with anticipated exhaustion. As the pandemic stretched far longer than perhaps anyone anticipated, 2021 became an endurance test we had no choice in taking. And now 2022 dares to ask for more patience, and more persistence of us, right at the moment we were trying to establish our new normal.
And yet, it is still a new year, with all the potential for happiness and vibrancy to which each January opens the door. We have cause to celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose own hope and optimism, in the midst of terrible violence and injustice, was unquestionable and enduring. Through his commitment to non-violent social justice activism, and from the well of his deep faith, Dr. King helped secure legal equality for Black Americans, and civil rights for people of color across the country.
Although I was young during the height of the Civil Rights Era, Dr. King was an extremely influential figure in my family and community. As the child and grandchild of a family imprisoned in the Japanese American internment camps, I understood early on how tenuous social ties can be when the centers of our communities do not hold fast. Dr. King’s cause to protect the most vulnerable among us, including my family and those like mine, underscored our connectedness and interdependence, even when we believed our experiences to be unique.
The reality is that we need each other in the most basic and profound ways, and we need the visionary power of a leader like Dr. King, who spent his life reminding us of who we could be and what we could have if we just put the work in . . . and if we worked together. The Beloved Community, Dr. King explained, waited at the end of our hate and anger: “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends . . . It is this love which will bring about miracles . . . .”
That Dr. King could speak these words despite his treatment at the hands of those who did not want Black Americans to sit at the front of the bus or at a lunch counter, and the physical, emotional, and legal violence perpetrated against him, is its own kind of miracle. But it is a miracle to which we can all contribute by lifting up ourselves and each other in community. It is a miracle of hope and love and peaceful resistance to the forces of dissension and bigotry.
It is this I ask us to celebrate in this new year, and on the day of celebration for Dr. King’s life and legacy, not necessarily in an exaggerated display, especially during these challenging days of COVID, but in a modest gesture, even a small kindness toward someone else, perhaps someone in another department or division or even a stranger. With hope and promise, let us all be builders of the Beloved Community today, and every day of this year.
Judy K. Sakaki,