In the waning days of Black History Month, I cannot help but hearken back to how I spent the days leading up to MLK Day - the unofficial start of Black History Month. For three days, I had the pleasure of participating in the 2016 Nexus USA Youth Summit - a global movement to bridge communities of wealth and social entrepreneurship.
During those days with the Nexus family and since, I have been inspired, challenged, and moved to action by the brilliance and generosity of this network of change makers.
I was thrilled to be asked to open the Summit and honored to share the stage with Troy Carter, Suzy Ryoo, Kenna, and Bree Newsome. Troy’s humility, Suzy’s intelligence and Kenna’s passion left me in awe. And then came Bree. Bree, who’s name we mostly forget but who’s image is etched forever in our minds. Bree who put her body on the line for her convictions and did what many of us could or would only tweet - #TakeItDown. Bree’s action was undeniably courageous but what moved me beyond words is why she did what she did.
South Carolina is home for Bree. Home not merely in the way most of us think of the city or state where we now find ourselves making a life. For generations, Bree’s family has called South Carolina home. They have been slaves there, freed there, lynched there, led there, bled there, and continue to struggle there. Yet, when faced with this history and the present evil of murdered innocents, Bree continued to believe that South Carolina can do better. That to me goes beyond courage and becomes a type of defiant hope that cannot help but move mountains. That audacious belief in a better tomorrow, if not today, is the unimpeachable lesson of Dr. King.
Most of us are familiar with Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, but few take the time to understand its genesis and deeper calling.
I don’t believe that Dr. King’s dedication to building a better America started with a dream. I think that as with many of us his journey towards the dream started with a realization. A realization of the limitations of his circumstances; a realization of his own deep personal pain. But here is what places him firmly in the realm of those who inspire us. Instead of letting this realization simply give way to frustration and cynicism, those that are destined to make a profound impact on a single life or perhaps the world open their hearts and minds to the possibility of something different - we free ourselves to dream. Now freeing ourselves to dream is sometimes the hardest step, because once we dream we are compelled to realize that dream. And all of the blood, sweat, and tears that now flow in service of that dream are freely given. This is where defiant hope is nurtured.
All who yield to the calling of “better” - freedom and liberty for all - are inextricably connected to Dr. King and to his dream. His dream is our challenge - our cross to bear and our defiant hope to nurture.
I end Black History Month as I began it, conscious of the complexity of the problems we face yet emboldened by the sacrifices of many before me and many around me.
To all the heroes of black history and black futures, we honor you. Now and always, stay true to the dream.