I learned in school that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. What I did not learn in school was that he had a vision and a clear sense of what it would take to get there. I was taught about how he worked to end racism, but not taught that he had named the “Giant Triplets” of interrelated evil to be Racism, Militarism, and Poverty. It wasn’t long after his transformational work expanded from civil rights to human rights that his life was taken at the unfinished age of 39.
Dr. King was one of many working to change the systems of oppression that deny humanity to everyone. And he did so with principles and steps developed through his life experiences. While many of us grieve that his dream has yet to be realized beyond a surface level, we can celebrate his vision and give thanks for the tools for nonviolent change that he left for us in the work of healing this world from the evils he named with great insight.
As we spend time this week celebrating the life of Dr. King, let us take time to remind ourselves of the principles of nonviolence and the steps for nonviolent change, to integrate them into our way of being in this world. As the movement continues to build, calling for a way of life that is not grounded in oppression and evil, calling for a way of life that honors the inherent worth and dignity of all, as well as our deeply interdependent existence, may we remember that we have ancestors to call on. They have not left us. We are not alone or on our own.
Let us remember the six principles of nonviolence:Principle One: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people
Principle Two: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding
Principle Three: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people
Principle Four: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform
Principle Five: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate
Principle Six: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice
Let us remember the six steps of nonviolent social change:
Step One: Information gathering
Step Two: Education
Step Three: Personal commitment
Step Four: Discussion/negotiation
Step Five: Direct action
Step Six: Reconciliation
If your education did not include these principles and steps – I am not surprised. These are legacy gifts for changing a dehumanizing, oppressive power structure that values wealth above life. We who believe in freedom must find the courage and the companions to work with on this journey towards the beloved community that Dr. King lifted up as a vision for what can be.