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Honoring Dr. King’s Values by Living Them

Rev. Mary Katherine Morn reflects on how the legacy of Dr. King continues to inspire action, such as our work at the southwest border.

By Rev. Mary Katherine Morn on January 21, 2019

Today we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who galvanized Americans to advocate for civil rights during deeply divided times. His unwavering moral compass pointed toward what justice should look like for all people and provides inspiration to all of us who struggle against oppression today. Using tools he learned from earlier generations of leaders, grassroots organizing, nonviolent protest, and civil disobedience, he and the larger community of activists achieved what seemed at the time like impossible goals. As we remember Dr. King today, may we renew our commitment to the lessons of his leadership and the leadership of many other courageous human rights defenders.

Those lessons are as timely and important now as they were fifty years ago — and provide a touchstone to guide us. Today and every day we are called to confront hatred, white supremacist nationalism, and anti-immigrant xenophobia.

Recently, gathering at the U.S.-Mexico border alongside fellow clergy, interfaith leaders, our members, and other UU activists for a mass action in support of the migrant exodus of families seeking refuge in the United States, this legacy of courage and commitment was on my mind.

I watched as colleagues — among them Rev. Jennifer Jo Vonrue and Rev. Ranwa Hammany, pictured above — were handcuffed and marched up the hill along a fence threaded with concertina wire. U.S. Border Patrol agents were heavily armed and defended in their helmets and vests. Our group of clergy and other religious professionals wore stoles and other symbols of our values, the only things we carried with us.

In talking with others who were present, I believe we were of one mind about this: our values called us to the border and held us in whatever form of protest we chose —  including risking arrest for the sake of those values. Ranwa, Jo, and others were joining this long line of courageous and committed activists, in nonviolent resistance, in bold advocacy for human rights.

Dr. King was paraphrasing the UU abolitionist minister Theodore Parker when he said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” King knew for true justice to be realized we ourselves must be the ones boldly advocating for it by living out our values in the public square — through actions big and small.

Thank you for your steadfast commitment. I hope you will continue to be active with UUSC, as we strive to provide you with opportunities for engagement, moral leadership, and inspiration you need to further fuel your passion and action for human rights.

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