In Honor of the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 20 Jan 2014
Welcome to the Land . . .
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Atlanta, Georgia! Welcome to the Land of Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968). Welcome to the land where one man made the word ‘‘justice’’ a living reality. Welcome to the land where one’s man’s vision brought changes to a nation’s identity, conscience, and heritage. Welcome to the land where one man’s relentless pursuit of justice for his people — and for all people — changed the course of history through non-violence.
It was here, more than 40 years ago, that a voice refused to be silenced regardless of the threats, dangers, and risks to life. It was here in Atlanta, and then in a thousand other places across the land, from Alabama to Chicago, from Washington DC to California, that the deep, resonant, baritone voice of a Black man electrified the air with words of such magnitude, of such righteousness, of such eloquence, that they crushed the very roots of bondage that had sustained injustice for centuries through fear, abuse, and pain.
It was here, and across the land, that hundreds of thousands harkened to King’s words, and then joined in protests at great costs to their safety, health, and livelihood. The task for King, and for the countless others who took up the cause of injustice in those tumultuous years, was both to undo a history of injustice and oppression, and to build a future founded on the justice, freedom, and opportunity, the rights our laws guaranteed, but never fulfilled. It was to ensure that justice and the burdens of injustice would be distributed equally and that each person – regardless of race, creed or color – would assume personal responsibility for this task.
This, then, is the challenge that remains, as life in a global age becomes our undeniable reality, and as our nation moves away from the ideals that were promised and guaranteed by law, and validated by the sacrifices of millions who came before.
Today, as we gather to share ideas, to seek wisdom, to pursue inspiration, to bond in common purpose, let me be clear in my message: I do not come to tell you that the profound changes inspired by King and the countless others who participated in the pursuit of justice in the 1960s are sufficient. Nor do I come to tell you we must be content with the barriers that have been broken, proud of the advances that have been made, and patient with the remaining challenges slow to change.
I come here today to tell you that King’s words are enshrined in stone to remind us that the struggle for justice will always continue. I come here today to tell you that the fierce and exhausting struggle that began in the Land of King forty years ago has not ended, and will continue for generations to come because the roots of hate, ignorance, and evil endure, nurtured by the protective veils of corruption, bias, and greed.
King’s call to justice, though now more than 40 (50) years old, echo throughout our global age. Listen! Can you hear the cries of the masses around the world leading lives of desperation – lives devoid of hope, lives existing from moment to moment, each breathe lacking even the reflexive assurance that the next will occur. The struggle for justice is global in proportion and consequence. There are victims of war, oppression, and natural disasters. There are victims of poverty, famine, and disease. There are victims of labor, gender, and child exploitation. They yearn for recognition, support, and justice.
Answering King’s call, and the call of the thousands of others who have responded to injustice in our time, will not be easy! It will add burdens to your conscience, responsibilities to your daily rounds, and threats to your safety. In answering the call, your life will not be the same. You may be required to face the harsh reality of being singled out for abuse from reactionary forces whose very ignorance and inhumanity keeps them locked in hate. Your comfort, safety, security, and reputation will all be at risk. But what will not be at risk are your personal integrity, your dignity, and your position of gratitude, respect, and admiration in the heart and minds of those you help.
The pursuit of justice is not free of costs, but its rewards are more than gold or silver — it is knowing, in our brief time on earth, we have done something to advance the cause of justice, and the cause of life itself.
Excerpts from an address I delivered to the American Counseling Association Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, 2006. The address was entitled: “Justice in a global age: Becoming counselors to the world.” The address was published in Counseling Psychology Quarterly, June 2006; 19(2): 121–132.
Anthony Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu. He is known nationally and internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 15 edited books, and more than 250 articles, chapters, book reviews, and popular pieces. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 20 Jan 2014.
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