Moving from Midnight to Daybreak

Below is CBI’s letter in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2021:

Dear friends,

A tradition we have come to treasure at CBI is that of reaching out to our family and friends to remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as the nation commemorates his birthday. Especially this year, we hope  that a piece of his wisdom might bring light into this current dark moment. Likewise, we hope the musical offering at the end might lift your spirit and build your strength.

In the past year, we have experienced so much loss as a nation: hundreds of thousands dead from COVID-19, job losses and an impending eviction crisis, too many killed due to racial injustice, bloodshed in the nation’s Capitol, and so much more. During this time, we also lost greats of the Civil Rights Era, Dr. King’s compatriots, including John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, as well as giant of gender equality Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We can’t help but feel the absence of these leaders in this critical moment, as our nation struggles to find our collective path forward. We are challenged to find and secure our own place as foot soldiers in the ongoing march toward justice.

This week, as we prepare to inaugurate a new President, we may face pressure to put the last year behind us in an attempt to get “back to normal.” But 2020 has revealed important lessons that we simply cannot forget, about injustices to which many of us had become accustomed. We are reminded that “normal’ for many of us isn’t an ideal worth returning to. Instead of letting go of those lessons, we at CBI challenge each of us not to be satisfied by “a negative peace which is the absence of tension,” but rather to insist upon Dr. King’s “positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

On December 18, 1963, Dr. King. spoke at Western Michigan University and shared his commitment to remain “maladjusted” to the many injustices he saw:

But I say to you, my friends…  there are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all men of good‐will will be maladjusted until the good societies realize. I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation.  I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self‐defeating effects of physical violence…

In other words, I’m about convinced now that there is need for a new organization in our world. The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment‐‐men and women who will be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos. Who in the midst of the injustices of his day could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” As maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln who had the vision to see that this nation would not survive half‐slave and half‐free… Through such maladjustment, I believe that we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

The turmoil of the last two weeks speaks powerfully to fault lines that have existed within our nation for much longer. The People’s House, built by enslaved and indentured laborers centuries ago, was the site of yet another convulsion. Dr. King’s challenge to us to remain “maladjusted” to the status quo requires the courage to acknowledge the harsh reality of our current circumstances. At the same time, it also presupposes a hope that propels us forward- imaging a different way of being together- that “glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.”

May Dr. King’s example inspire us to refuse to adjust to the injustices around us- from white nationalism, to health disparities, to the housing crisis, and so many more. Let us instead be maladjusted enough- and have courage enough- to take up the mantles of Martin Luther King, as well as the leaders we lost this year, as we hope and work for a new way. CBI is here, as always, to support you on the journey.

Our best,

Annetta, Christi, Dianne and Megan
The CBI Team

Here are some opportunities we have starting this week (space limited, registration required) which we hope might interest you:

  • Our first Fault Lines conversation will take place via Zoom the morning of January 20th from 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.Visit the Things To Do page on our website to find dates of future discussions.
  • A virtual Equity Impact Circle begins on January 21st from 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m, and will continue weekly on Thursdays through February 18th.
  • Author Nicholas Kristof will join us via Zoom on February 9th at noon for a live discussion of his book, Tightrope: Americans Reaching For Hope.
View the video above to hear a beautiful version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Baylor University junior Jada Holliday, filmed for Juneteenth 2020.
To learn more about the Black National Anthem, Alicia Keys’ rendition for the NFL’s 2020 Opening Day also includes the historical context.

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