In tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. who died April 4, 1964, three months before the Civil Rights Act passed:
This week I am planning for a Seder and preparing our family Haggadah. In my rush to put everything together, I am reminded about the spiritual and personal growth issues we learn with Passover. None move me as deeply as the reaffirmation of the commitment to human rights advocacy and the maintenance of individual dignity. Despite the efforts of our oppressors, whether internal or external, on this holiday we remember our calling and our duty.
Lifting the Silence
We are called to speak up for those that cannot speak up for themselves, to invite the stranger into our homes who has no place to go, to speak out against moral injustices that are happening in our communities and around the world, as well as acting to protect others from brutality, injustice and prejudice. Each year at the celebration of Passover I am called to rekindle my commitments to humanity and civil rights.
Suffering, injustice and brutality are never just about the oppressed. When these conditions flourish in our own community, those living amidst the hateful oppression also become inflicted with suffering. Martin Luther King Jr. explains it so beautifully:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
We must not remain silent in the face of injustice. Our voices must be heard, our bodies must be shields, our minds must be quelled of fear, our hearts must learn to connect and feel compassion for all creatures. The biggest enemy of human rights has always been silence, judgment and inaction.
Sharing Our Stories
On this day I am called to remember Martin Luther King Jr., as well as anyone who has struggled against the forces of oppression, suffering and prejudice. Many times opposing injustice is dangerous and unpopular, but the arc of the universe tends to bend toward justice.
Remember the people throughout Europe who provided others with safe haven, even under the threat of death. Remember Harriet Tubman and the people of the underground railroad who risked their lives helping former slaves travel to safer lands. Remember Rosa Parks and Rosa Luxemburg.
Remember all of the women, children and men who have felt the power of non-violent action as a means of change. Remember that change does happen and our memories serve us well. Finally, look to the active resistance in the world today and let those struggling with oppression hear your voice. The oppressed are calling out. Hear the messages of the Arab Spring and the growing global Occupy Movement.
These stories of great people provide us with guidance regarding how to act and secure our human rights. There are so many stories that need to be told and retold. Do you have something to contribute? Please share your personal history or insights in the comments below.
Great Speeches/Books/Video on Civil Rights:
Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a Dream
Letter from a Birmingham Jail
President Johnson addresses Howard University 1965
Quotes from Howard Zinn
Full text from Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States
photo of Arab Spring Some rights reserved by Gigi Ibrahim