Stay Woke: From MLK to Ferguson

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This week fifty years ago, Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In his moving December acceptance speech, he  called nonviolent protest "the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time," the "powerful moral force" alone able to transform the "starless midnight of racism and war... to the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood"; its foundation, he said, "is love." This week, as they have for the two months since the murder of Mike Brown, protesters flooded the streets of Ferguson, "young people on the ground, dreaming new dreams." Many look and sound different from King's cadenced, tie-and-jacket era: "They are lining up, linking arms...listening to those who have something to say, and shutting down shit when forced to listen to anyone who doesn’t...They are undignified, improper, unabashed, impolitic, unapologetic, indefatigable." But now as then, black progressives say, they are "the hands on our national clock," marking the ebb and flow of America’s social progress, or lack of same. Given how much we have failed to achieve, it's hard not to mourn hearing King's ever-eloquent testimony to his own "abiding faith in America (and) audacious faith in the future of mankind." But with people still out there in Ferguson
seeking "versions of ourselves worth fighting for," activist Cornel West says the "black prophetic fire" burns on, looking fundamentally much like that of King's. Arrested this week among dozens of other protesters, West notes there are still "magnificent figures trying to not only be on fire for justice and freedom, but be on fire for truth and understanding." Like King, then, he has enduring hope.

"In the face of terror, I want love," he said, "and justice is what love looks like in public."


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