Dear Dr. King:
How marvelous it is to know and read of you! How wonderful it is to know your compassion lead you to action and how your wife has supported you. I wish to thank you for your life and service. I’m sure those two words are rarely heard, and never heard enough. On behalf of those whom benefit from history and hindsight, once more, thank you.
In the fifty years since your passing from living to ancestry and then to legacy, there is still so much to be done, Martin. There are strides, stutter-steps and fighting for every inch of ground we as a people have. There are policies and laws in place now that weren’t fifty years ago, yet there are places in this nation where my almost seventy year old mother would still be called a ‘colored girl.’ There is still so much work laid, yet so much work to do, which at the weight of it all–sometimes threaten to crush my soul, spirit and heart.
As this new movement, this strive to be ‘woke’, has been something akin to what I am sure you, Coretta and all of SNCC and the NAACP saw. There has been a unity emerging which is needed and necessary, yet there is a thread, once pulled reveals motives, hearts, agendas and intentions. It is sometimes such lonely work, Martin. Such lonely work.
What I have decided to, Martin, perhaps what you considered: work my niche. I have found my niche to be organizing, support, mentoring, refuge and education. I have found that the work, this work of the gospel and social justice, will always be ongoing. The mission field is too wide a swath to tackle alone! I am learning it will not be perfect, I will not be perfect in learning, but there is a restlessness in me which makes me want to keep going. I have to keep going.
Martin, Dr. King, I understand more what Margaret Mitchell meant when she said, “Respectability is the punishment for the wild.” For all the fires I caused and walked away from, I now must start and kindle to others.
I want to thank you for not giving up. I thank you for showing what a possible path to freedom looked like. I thank you for your grace, fierceness, courage and boldness. I don’t believe to change the world as a person of color you have to be ‘the good negro’–and I have always rejected that depiction of you. I know now, to change the world as a person of color you have to know the game you’re playing and play it better.
I’m deciding to play it better.
In Hope, Fight and Faith,
Pastor Jennifer P. Harris, Spirit of Life Church-St. Louis