“The time has come for America to hear the truth…”

It is Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday on the cusp of Black History Month, and I am listening to a Democracy Now podcast featuring several of MLK’s speeches in protest of the Vietnam War. They are speeches that I am less familiar with, and I focus in.

I have been seeking to understand the protests against austerity and neoliberalism in South America. The destabilization of Central America. The influence of this on migration towards the U.S. border. The role of the U.S. in the origin of this unrest. The influence of neo-liberalism in the U.S. itself.

In these speeches, MLK draws the connection between racism, materialism and militarism; between oppression in the U.S., violence in Vietnam and “our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America.” And in doing so, he weaves together moments we are taught to see separately. He challenges the separation that keeps us thinking we can only focus on one cause at a time or one region at a time. He debunks the myth that there is not enough and so we must sacrifice one group’s needs for another’s.

The more I understand the complexity of his work, the more I understand the world I inhabit. His life provides me a role model for just leadership and a reminder that deep universal truths arise from the wisdom of particular perspectives. The more I understand the complexity of Black history, the easier it becomes for me to see beneath the surface of the sugar-coated, white-washed, and muted tales I have been taught. And it is in those depths that I find the stories which help me take my place in the effort toward liberation.

“We must speak with all the appropriate humility to our limited vision”

Kelly Cole
Equity Trainer, Epoch Education