Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | Self-love and Soul Work

One of the most amazing experiences I had last year was traveling to Montgomery, Alabama [with a colleague and several Huntsville area K-12 teachers] and walking the path where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began his activism. We often discuss King’s leading the fight for Civil Rights in this country with emphasis on his practice of non-violent/passive resistance. But, while he worked to build bridges between blacks and whites during one of the most turbulent eras of United States racial history, King also addressed the need for African Americans to resist the stigmatization of blackness. He urged us to love ourselves in spite of our country’s ingrained propensity to chip away at any inclination we possess toward authentic self-love and acceptance.

King would have been 90 today, and since his birthday falls during Pics and Posts’ “Self-love Week,” I am sharing an excerpt from a speech that encourages self-love.

I come here tonight to plead with you. Believe in yourself and believe that you are somebody. I said to a group last night: Nobody else can do this for us. No document can do this for us. No Lincolnian emancipation proclamation can do this for us. No Johnsonian Civil Rights bill can do this for us.

If the Negro is to be free, he must move down into the inner resources of his own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-assertive manhood his own emancipation proclamation.

Don’t let anybody take your manhood. Be proud of our heritage…we don’t have anything to be ashamed of.

Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything “black” ugly and evil. Look in your dictionaries and see the synonyms of the word “black.” It’s always something degrading and low and sinister. Look at the word “white,” it’s always something pure, high and clean. Well, I want to get the language right tonight.

I want to get the language so right that everyone here will cry out: ‘Yes, I’m Black, I’m proud of it. I’m Black and I’m beautiful!”

And because MLK’s speeches are best experienced aurally:

King spoke specifically to African Americans in this speech, but there’s something in his speech for everyone. Dig deep and do the work. Love the skin you’re in. Find within you that which is good and strong and beautiful.

Perhaps, if everyone took the time to love themselves the world wouldn’t be such a mess! We wouldn’t have to feast on fear and hatred or make ourselves sick building superficial lives in search of acceptance by others.

People who love themselves love people. People who love themselves are beautiful. People who love themselves use their energy and resources to build up others, not tear down and destroy.

Self-love is work, but one of the best ways we express self-love is through the soul work of loving others.


16 thoughts on “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | Self-love and Soul Work

  1. Janet from FL says:

    I agree. If we don’t love and respect ourself, we cannot love or respect others. It is good to be proud of our heritage wherever our ancestors came from. I am Polish and Italian. I never believed the negative comments made about my heritage. I have always appreciated my family’s traditions and history. So in this way, MLK was speaking for us all. Some just need to hear it again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Josh Gross | The Jaguar says:

    I’ve actually thought about this many times, how “black” is always connected with something bad – or evil. I’ve wondered if there was a racial reason for this, and; given historical realities, I’m not surprised that there is.

    Great words about self-love too!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Josh Gross | The Jaguar says:

        Yes, generations indeed! Contrary to popular belief, our attitudes/mindsets can actually follow from our behaviors, rather than causing them. So one way to change mindsets is to get people to act differently, as long as there’s not too much coercion. Thus, using the word/concept “black” in positive ways is one way to break down the black=bad mindset, as many people before me have pointed out.


  3. lloydslensphotographyllc says:

    I was raised in an all white community by an all white family. So when it comes to race relations I really feel kinda “clumsy” with my words. I’m always self conscious that what I say mug be taken the wrong way. However, the following bible verses call us to follow the right attitude.

    Acts 17:26
    And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

    1 John 3:15
    Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him

    One day this flesh will fall asleep and fade away and our true being will be released into eternity. If we read the scriptures we learn..

    Mark 12:25
    For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.

    I think that we can extrapolate from Mark 12:25 and presume that if we become like the angels that are neither make nor female that it’s reasonable to expect that we are also without race. Knowing that really brings to light the fact that there are no “others”. If we are in Christ then we are one people and we should love everyone the same. This world was created perfect and then broken by sin. It’s destiny is to burn away and be replaced by something that we cannot even perceive. I look forward to seeing ALL of my brothers and sisters in the world to come no matter what temporary forms we are in now. ❤


  4. Lona Gynt says:

    This was wonderful Chandra. I am struck by the universality of these words, applicable across boundaries of race or circumstance. We all need to recognize the beauty of who we are. Personally, I heard a small voice inside of me whispering that just maybe I might not be a cataclysm, I heard a whisper of “trans is beautiful.” Thank you for sparking this wonderful remembrance. 💜


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