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.

 

12 Days of Christmas Postcards | Day 11

My friend David P posted a Facebook status Christmas morning that poignantly expressed the meaning of Christmas. We spend so much time on the circumstances and the miracle of the virgin birth that we often miss the reason Christ came to earth—God so loved the world. Christ came not just to be born of a virgin and perform miracles but to rescue us through His shed blood at Calvary. He came because of His inexplicably deep love for humanity. It’s just as simple–and complex–as that.

David wrote:

We Christians believe Jesus was sent to Earth because God loved the world. To me, that means all of us: Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and Hindus; those who practice Santería, Vodou, the Yoruba religion and other African-based beliefs; pagans, Wiccans and yes, even Satanists; .agnostics and atheists, too. And those of any other belief, or of no belief at all. God’s love is a big patchwork blanket of grace that covers all of us, no matter what state we are in, no matter how we perceive or don’t perceive God.

This is the good news: God loves us lavishly, unconditionally and relentlessly. So we who believe can relax, enjoy the relationship, and grow in it. And we can trust that for our loved ones who don’t believe or aren’t sure, God doesn’t pout or hold grudges. God loves them, and courts and cares for them night and day. In fact, God’s love for them far exceeds our own. So don’t worry. They are in good hands, just as we are. Happy Holidays to all…and to my fellow believers, Merry Christmas!

David’s words align with the sentiment of the image I shot for our holiday card this year: Christmas is about love for humanity, and that love is always in season.

Voting: Your Right and Responsibility

Protest Art on display at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Since we are heading to the polls in a couple of days, I decided to share a two-minute video reminding Americans why we must vote. In the video, my 83-year-old relative recounts her experience with attempted voter suppression and finally casting her first vote for U.S. President.

I’ve heard far too many “reasons” people don’t vote or didn’t vote in this or that election. As Cousin Marie declares, “your vote is where your rights are.” A decision not to vote may eventually lead to revocation of certain rights.

Despite the struggle between Democrats and Republicans that is constantly thrown in our faces, your vote should not be about party affiliation or who makes the most noise. Make an effort to ignore what one candidate or political party says about the other. Avoid the all-day news commentary. Steer clear of social media. Make time to research each candidate for yourself. Take notes. Make lists. Think about what you want for our country, and vote for the individuals whose actual values most align with your own principles–hopefully, principles rooted in love for humanity. Pay attention to what they do, not just what they say.

In short, as my friend Uzoma O. posted as his Facebook status recently:

Stop being Democratic or Republican. Be honest. Have morals. Show empathy. Value integrity. Be a good human.

If it all still sounds like noise to you, vote anyway.

I’ll spare you the lecture on how many people fought and died for our right to vote.  I realize our right to vote includes our right not to vote, but I hope you choose the former. Why? Because beyond being a right, voting is also a civic and sacred responsibility.

In his sermon this weekend, my pastor reminded the congregation that in voting we comply with two of the directives of Micah 6:8–to act justly and love mercy. In voting, we raise our voices, protest, and do our part to right societal wrongs. We stand up for social justice and we work to make compassion and kindness part of our personal and national character.

There’s too much at stake this election season. Your vote–your voice–is far more powerful than silence. Nothing is gained through inaction.

Musings from My Younger Self: Somewhere Along the Way

I intended to share a different “musing from my younger self” today, but cannot remember where I placed the sassy poem. As I was looking through one of my poetry notebooks, I happened across the short poem below. It was hastily written on a sheet of paper from a yellow legal pad and was dedicated to one of my high school best friends and her sweetheart. They were inseparable and shocked all who knew them when they ended their relationship.

You ask of me what you cannot give,
and I do not understand.
I walked with you.
I held your hand.
You became a part of me,
and now,
it’s over–
not because I stopped loving you
or because you stopped loving me
but because somewhere along the way
you forgot who I am. 

I do not recall the details of the breakup, but the line that ends the poem is telling. I’m sure my friend and I talked about the whys and hows of the relationship’s ending, and the point of his “forgetting” must have compelled me to write the short poem.

I wrote this when we were teenagers. I am slightly awed by our youthful understanding of the complexities of love. What really strikes me is that my friend–as young as she was at the time–realized the soul-damaging potential of remaining in a relationship with even a man she loved when he no longer valued her.

A Written Word: We Will Forever Hold Her

“Bloom,” Crafted by Cricket P.

This elegant poppies postcard was handmade by my Love Notes pal, Cricket. She designed it for “Beautiful Blooms,” the latest Global heART Swap, but kindly sent one to me in remembrance of Lori. The tiny black dots in the “green painted vases” are poppy seeds  from Cricket’s garden. In a few weeks, we will plant them–in Lori’s honor–just outside my home office window. They will bloom in the spring.

The intimate notes Cricket sent to Lori and me during her struggle and the one she included with “Bloom” are among those I will forever cherish. I will reserve the most intimate details of her notes for my own eyes, but it’s fitting to close with some of the words from her “Blooms” note:

Thank you for including all of us in this journey–for making Lori alive in our world. That we can share in the love and the grief of virtual strangers is a phenomenal thing. It gives hope in/to a troubled world and should be celebrated. Lori touched us all and we’ll forever hold her.

A Written Word: Seven Days of Inspiration and Comfort

“A Bundle of Notes” from colleagues and students

It’s okay. It’s okay to bleed a while. –from a note written by Linda W.

In the quiet of night, after I’ve stirred restlessly and aimlessly all day, I find calm and peace as I unfold a note or open a card written to carry me through this difficult period in my life. The note Silke sent five years ago, which I’ve read and shared dozens of times, is read repeatedly again.

As I work through my grief, I’m moved by my friends, penfriends, colleagues, and students who put pen to paper to offer words of comfort and encouragement. There’s something sacred in those notes, in individuals’ choosing to take part in someone else’s pain and loss.

Often, people can’t find the words to say or they speak one sentence more than they should, but somehow, the pen helps them find words that possess power to soothe and heal.

The precious words offer the humanity I need when so much of my grief is trapped in an aching silence.

Someone else needs these words, so I’ve decided to share some of the beautiful, inspiring, comforting words on the blog this week–sometimes, an image and a quote, sometimes an excerpt from a card or note, sometimes a reflection.

Always in the evening…when I have a moment to “just be.”

This evening’s quote comes from the note written by a new friend who suffered her own loss not so long ago. It’s a reminder that it’s okay to be “not okay,” and ultimately, we pay the price for pretending we are.