Four passages that power IRUSA for a day “On”
In cities across America, IRUSA Blueshirts have joined hands with neighbors, advocates, community servants, and partners who hold the timeless legacy of civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a part of the lifeblood of their mission. His commitment to championing the forgotten, honoring the oppressed is a reminder to those in power, that they spend every day entrusted to help others become self-determined.
As the people we serve gather resources, food parcels, and many other essential items, we are reminded that Dr. King was constantly pushing every one of us to connect to a higher ideal, a higher humanity. On Jan. 17, millions will commemorate his life and teachings through service, just as the IRUSA community is doing. Below are select excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King’s most-impactful speeches and writings that remind us all that Dr. King’s history is now.
Letter from Birmingham Jail was penned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while imprisoned for his involvement in nonviolent demonstrations against segregation. The letter was in response to concerns brought forth in a public statement by eight white religious leaders of the South.
April 16, 1963
You may well ask, “Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks
so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as a part of the work of the nonviolent resister.
This may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.
So, the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.
I Have A Dream, delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
August 28, 1963
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative
suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
The Death of Evil upon the Seashore, sermon delivered at the Service of Prayer and
Thanksgiving, Cathedral of St. John the Divine
May 7, 1956
Let us not despair. Let us not lose faith in man and certainly not in God. We must believe that a prejudiced mind can be changed, and that man, by the grace of God, can be lifted from the valley of hate to the high mountain of love. Let us remember that as we struggle against Egypt, we must have love, compassion and understanding goodwill for those against whom we struggle, helping them to realize that as we seek to defeat the evils of Egypt we are not seeking to defeat them but to help them, as well as ourselves.
God has a great plan for this world. His purpose is to achieve a world where all men will live together as brothers, and where every man recognizes the dignity
and worth of all human personality.
After completion of protest marches in Selma, AL, Martin Luther King made the following speech on the steps of the State Capitol.
March 25, 1965
Today I want to tell the city of Selma, today I want to say to the state of Alabama, today I want to say to the people of America and the nations of the world, that we are not about to turn around. We are on the move now.
Yes, we are on the move and no wave of racism can stop us. We are on the move now. The burning of our churches will not deter us. The bombing of our homes will not dissuade us. We are on the move now. The beating and killing of our clergymen and young people will not divert us. We are on the move now. The wanton release of their known murderers would not discourage us. We are on the move now. Like an idea whose time has come, not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us. We are moving to the land of freedom.
Let us therefore continue our triumphant march to the realization of the American dream. Let us march on segregated housing until every ghetto or social and economic depression dissolves, and Negroes and whites live side by side in decent, safe, and sanitary housing. Let us march on segregated schools until every vestige of segregated and inferior education becomes a thing of the past, and Negroes and whites study side-by-side in the socially-healing context of the classroom.
Let us march on poverty until no American parent has to skip a meal so that their children may eat.