Tackling today’s violence requires Dr. King’s philosophy of love

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., center, and Rev. Ralph Abernathy, third from left, share a laugh outside  court in Decatur, Ga., Oct. 25, 1960. Others are unidentified. Andrew Young is seen at center, facing right. (AP Photo)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., center, and Rev. Ralph Abernathy, third from left, share a laugh outside court in Decatur, Ga., Oct. 25, 1960. Others are unidentified. Andrew Young is seen at center, facing right. (AP Photo)

This essay is part of a series of reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s lesser-known speech, “Keep Moving From This Mountain.” The April 10, 1960, address to students at Spelman College will be the focus of a Community Conversation at WHYY on Friday, Jan. 17 from 6 – 8 p.m. Click here to RSVP. 

While standing in Sister’s Chapel at Spelman College — the private, women’s liberal arts institution in Atlanta — Dr. King identified and addressed four symbolic mountains that America must move away from if civilization is to survive and reach a state of justice, peace, respect and honor.

His speech, “Keep Moving From This Mountain,” is eerily relevant to 2020.

The first mountain identified by the southern minister was moral and ethical relativism. On this point, Dr. King called upon us to acknowledge that the “right” and “honorable” thing is not a point of negotiation and that the view of morality as a “matter of group consensus” is incorrect.

Said another way: We must always choose the side of right and just.

Practical materialism, which Dr. King explained as “living as if there were nothing else that had reality but fame and material objects,” was the second mountain. The reverend called for us to stop seeking out work that improves our lives and adds to our personal wealth, and instead pursue a life of purpose and concern for humanity.

Upon the third mountain, racial segregation was a call for universal freedom and human dignity for all of God’s children.

“Segregation is wrong because it assumes that God made a mistake,” Dr. King declared.

The fourth and final mountain is, to me, the most important of all: violence.

America must move from this mountain with, as Dr. King once put it, a “fierce urgency of now.”

Rumors of war. Police brutality. The deaths of immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border. The sustained oppression of people of color. This moment in history should compel us to follow Dr. King’s mandate of love, if we are to survive and combat the violence that permeates our society.

Dr. King suggested fighting violence with an attitude of shared humanity and the strength that comes with love.

The Atlanta-born minister, then in his early 30s, said he “lives every day amidst the threat of death.” But Dr. King chose love in the face of hate.

Battered by the winds of adversity, Dr. King kept moving.

He had faith in the future that existed on the other side of the mountain. But more importantly, Dr. King had risen to a level where he could look in the eyes of an opponent and love him in spite of his evil deeds.

The people who resort to violence and hate are in need of love.

Author Marianne Williamson once wrote, “The way of the miracle-worker is to see all human behavior as one of two things: either love, or a call for love.”

To fight with love requires two things: a long stare at the good in humanity, and the understanding that nothing and no one can move you towards weapons of hate and violence.

On April 10, 1960, Dr. King described his audience, the Spelman women, as “the heirs of a legacy of goodwill and sacrifice.”

In 2020, my question to you is: What will the future generations inherit through your legacy?

As a Spelman woman, I am reminded that my life must be aligned with the legacy of the institution that nurtured me to womanhood.

As an American citizen, and an inhabitant of this planet, I seek to unite with principled people to create a legacy of love, hope and dogged determination. My vision is the same one Dr. King had: to create a just world for all of God’s children.

When reflecting on Dr. King’s nearly sixty-year-old speech, the biblical story of Queen Esther comes to mind. Queen Esther was challenged with understanding that she might have become royalty because she was needed as a voice for the voiceless.

What if you and I are alive now, at this moment in history, to show love and strength during a time such as this?

In 2020, showing up with love and strength means transforming our corner of the universe with visions of a loving and humane world. Our thoughts and actions should align with the vision of the world we wish to create.

This could mean buying a meal for someone in need, joining a community advocacy group, writing a letter to your legislator or organizing rallies.

In addition to showing the world love, it’s important that we, particularly those of us who identify with traditionally oppressed groups, show ourselves love every day and in every moment.

The incomparable Audre Lorde, a Black feminist and civil rights activist, once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

In a country where violence against women, children, and people of color are normal occurrences, show up with so much love for yourself that even when external forces seek to tear you down, you’ll have the power to rise

Imani Hester is a 2014 alumna of Spelman College. Hester went on to earn a master’s in teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education and a master’s in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently uses her skills in the education field and will be publishing a children’s book in August 2020. She plans to pursue a career in writing and public speaking and to continue her education work.

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