Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day: A Message of Hope from Kathy Littles, PhD

On Monday, January 18, 2021 the United States will honor and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King

Jr. This year, MLK Day takes on incredible significance given the domestic terrorism that took place at the United States Capitol as the certification of President Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris were underway. If there was ever a time to reflect on Dr. King's notion of a Beloved Community, it is now. 

Saint Mary’s College students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends. Let us remember the life of Dr. King and the way in which he inspired and challenged us to embody the notion of a Beloved Community. The King Center reminds us that:

"The Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by  peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict."

I will admit that “love and trust” in this historical moment can be the most difficult of emotions to embrace during a time of so much division, hate, and anger. I am reminded that hate and anger, can and will rob me of my own peace and purpose.  

As someone who thrives in-community, I am thankful for opportunities to commune with my colleagues. We shared a moment last week when the Mission and Ministry Center (MMC) hosted a “Community Prayer Service for the Nation.” There are other opportunities scheduled: on Tuesday, January 19 in collaboration with the MMC and my office, we will hold three online gatherings for prayer and reflection. February 8 through March 23 marks the fourth annual 44 Days: Honoring Black History at Saint Mary’s College. This year’s theme, Telling Our Own Stories, will provide the space for us to reflect on our past, present, and future. There are flashes of hope, fierce strength, and dignity. However, these are hard, uncertain, and difficult times. How will we emerge, and how will we be remembered when history looks back on all of us? 

I received many thoughtful emails after the prayer service on January 6. I want to share with you an excerpt from my speech, in the hope that it provides some context into why it is important to honor and take heed from those who came before us.  

I’ve been thinking about my ancestors all day long. Grandmother Hines and Broadway, Grandpa Simmie—I say their names. The men and women who bore children in the American south, Louisiana and Arkansas to be exact. It is the spirit of my ancestors who provided perspective for me this afternoon. In a silent moment around 2:35 p.m. my spirit spoke to me, they spoke to me. I could hear grandmother say “Be in the moment. Don’t run, don’t minimize, sit…in…it. It will be uncomfortable, you may weep, but sit...in...it so that you never forget that's what we did.”

I want to offer this to everyone. Presence is a gift. Embrace it with love, compassion, reflection, respect, and empathy. I acknowledge the enormous emotions that many are feeling: anger, sadness, hostility, resignation, sorrow, and pain. Some are surprised by what we witnessed unfold at our nation’s capital today, and others like me are not surprised at all. The racial and social reckoning in the United States will be deep and long, and we are a part of it. It is my hope that everyone will be able to have a quiet moment and ask hard questions—what am I called to do in this moment? What are you called to do? Who am I called to be?  

I want to offer an example of a beacon of hope. Last night before I went to bed, Stacey Abrams was on my heart. For those who don’t know her story, Ms. Abrams lost the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election. Many believe that the election was unfair, but that isn’t the end of the story. What has Stacey Abrams taught us? When we see and or experience injustice, resist bitterness and being a bystander. Ms. Abrams conducted massive get-out-the-vote efforts, and voter registration drives in the State of Georgia, and we see the result of her organizing today. She didn’t get stuck in anger, she got to work.

For the Saint Mary’s community, we have much work to do, but we also have a roadmap—our Lasallian Core Principles: 

Concern for the Poor and Social Justice

          We are in solidarity with the poor and advocate for those suffering from injustices.

Faith in the Presence of God 

          We believe in the living presence of God in our students, our community, and our world.

Quality Education

          We engage in quality education together as students, staff, and faculty by thinking critically and examining our world in light of faith.

Respect for all Persons

          We honor and respect the dignity of all individuals.

Inclusive Community

          We celebrate diversity and welcome all members of our community.

 

I ask for the highest good for all of us.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

 

Onward and Upward, 

Kathy Littles, PhD

Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Senior Diversity Officer