Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was a great man of many words. Words that hold great meaning to folks across all borders of the United States and beyond, words that have inspired and moved us for decades to work in the service of others, to commit to a life of nonviolence and love, to expel racism from our world, and to build a future where our children- of every creed, color, and class could join hands as sisters and brothers in a beloved community built for all to be welcome.
Here at Progress North, our team is passionate about holding our values in equity, people-centered democracy, and the common good. These are big social issues that many champions of the past, such as Dr. King that paved a path for us to continue his great work towards equality going forward.
Join the staff as we share in our reflections on just a few of the many powerful words of Martin Luther King Jr that inspire us to take action daily towards a more united, equal, and safe world.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Shawnu shares a significant memory with us, “This quote is most meaningful to me because I saw it on the MLK Monument in D.C. when I was with the first core team of volunteers that I organized at TakeAction MN. We were a diverse (by age, race & socioeconomic status) group of women that came together with a clear vision of what we wanted in our communities and how inextricably our own liberations were tied to each other’s.
I remember standing in front of the quote on this monument grateful & thankful that this wonderful group of people were in my life and that we all are so invested in each other (I still talk to all of them & likely always will) – and I have thought of that moment often over the past four years when I’ve had difficult conversations with people about their support for Trump and the fascism he perpetuates in our country.
For me, I just keep on thinking that if more people truly understand how interconnected our struggles are we will win. I still truly believe this to be true – and when I think of the world I want for my kids, making sure this is the fabric of how we govern is very important to me for their futures.
“Lightning makes no sound until it strikes.”
David helps us find perspective, “This quote has always grounded me in more than one way. First and foremost, in my work toward social progress in our country, it reminds me that while I may not see or hear the progress or change I want so badly, it doesn’t mean that the movement isn’t building. It helps me stay invested and centered in doing the work despite my personal impatience. It also reminds me that there is real power in the work we do. That, while society may not see the massive investments in organizing and movement building that is happening, it will not be able to be ignored when the power of social change is realized. It will happen, with a flash and bang consistent with its sincerity and fervor when, as MLK Jr wrote, we cannot be expected to find a voice in a whisper but rather exercise a force of frightening intensity.”
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
Cheyenne inspires us to tap into our empathy, “I have spent a good portion of my life trying to close off some of the empathy and care that engulfs me at every single turn because, in our individualistic capitalist society, we fend for ourselves. But in all actuality, that same empathy and care are what brings the most happiness and joy into my life. When my empathy, care, and love guide me…I am at my best. I have come to realize that empathy and care are exactly what I need. It is exactly what the world needs from me and it is what the world needs from everyone. If there was more of it, the world would be a whole hell of a lot better.”
Jade stimulates us to consider two quotes that remind us that we are all connected to each other and what silence and compliance mean in the face of change and social unrest.
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
This quote reflects an idea I try to remind myself of regularly; that every single person, including myself, has a value that adds to my life and the lives of those around me. However unaffected you feel by any specific issue or injustice, contemplating the inherent interconnectedness of life will bring to light the equality of humankind and how the actions of everyone affect the lives of all. I like to remind myself of the lives of current nameless bodies that provide for the life I get to lead and those throughout history that have brought us this far. Then comes the acceptance that it is my turn to pick up the baton and continue the work to fight for everyone to have a secure and fulfilling life. I think that this quote is a far more succinct and beautiful reminder of this idea.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
I think this quote is deeply powerful, in that it brings up the important issue of silence and inaction in those who consider themselves good and decent folk, but do nothing for or even speak against change when the time rises. Those who think of turning a blind eye or not talking politics is the respectable way to be. Those who tokenize their black and brown friends as a way to excuse stagnation or backsliding in the government’s or their own actions. I just think that it is a powerful message to those who think silence and compliance are acceptable within times of change or protecting marginalized folk. It does reflect on the character of those who look at certain ideals or events or injustices and say “but I would never” when they won’t stand against it either.
“If you can’t fly then run if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Kayla encourages us to look forward, “I like this quote because it suggests that no matter the condition you can keep pulling forward. It’s also stated in a way that allows me to feel that whatever the efforts one can provide will be, that is enough. It’s a good reminder that every month we may not be able to fly, shit sometimes we may not even be able to crawl, but perseverance is a force.”
“No one has the right to rain on your dream.”
Chelsea ruminates on being true to ourselves, “While this quote is simple, it remains a powerful positive affirmation that I use. Just as many before me, with me, and to come will face the turbulence of stormy situations, this quote remains a sturdy umbrella to weather the storms.
Throughout my life, many did not encourage me to go in pursuit of my passions, I was pushed to walk down a path I did not want for myself. It felt soul-crushing, to disregard my own dreams in an effort to fit in lines I didn’t draw for myself.
As I trudged my way through storms of oppression and blizzards of suppression, it dawned upon me that the reason I was so miserable was because I was not being true to my own self. I wasn’t fulfilling my dreams, so I got an umbrella and a shovel, and I started to make my way out.
When I started to follow my dreams and manifest them into my daily life, I started to see that I was not the only person trapped following the lines made by others, and I made it my mission to liberate as many from the awful feeling of being forced to be someone you are not, to live a life you wish not to lead.
This journey to set myself free from the confinements of a corrupt system led me to find strength in words of strength. This quote brings me courage to stand for what I believe in, and I use it as a mantra when times feel tough.