By Michele Milam
From the March on Selma, to his views on the Vietnam War and his leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Dr. King set history on fire with a quiet hope, that one day in spite of what things looked like, they could change through love.
LOVE, not EROS love, but AGAPE love that means in the language of kindness that, “I love you even when you can do nothing for me, and you may do something to me.”
So here is the question we have to ask ourselves, regardless of our generational position. Is Dr. King’s message of LOVE relevant now? When gun violence claims the lives of children in Newtown, in Chicago, in Richmond and aboard? When there are people in this community, hurting, hungry, needing the love and caring that only we can give ourselves?
Is the message relevant?
From the work of Dr. King, I believe there is a message to my generation. It is, “take the baton.” Although Dr. King may have gone on, we have heroes and she-roes of many ages.
Mrs. Myrtle Braxton and Naomi Williams are community members committed to making sure Richmond’s Southside looks its best; Andomeda Brooks, who even after thieves stole her tools, is still trying to put together a garden in the Iron Triangle; Pastor Washington and every pastor who walks the streets at night reaching out to young men to affirm how loved and valuable they are; Sims Thompson, who wakes up every morning and drives around Richmond identifying what needs to be fixed; Sarah Grant, who keeps her block on Wilson Way free from graffiti;
Linda Campbell and neighbors, who organized to help after their neighbor’s home was destroyed by fire; Ellen Seskin, Jan Migone and Felix Hunziker, who still know how to hold a neighborhood together through good old fashioned conversation; Alejandro Navarro, who organized his block to get the lights restored in Cesar Chavez Park; Rita Williams and Monica Foster, who feed the hungry in Parchester, even when they themselves don’t know where the help will come from; and Anna Duran, who helped a neighbor who had been abused.
We are in the company of your heroes, and as neighbors we can build a better Richmond. This is our promised land. What would Dr. King want us to do today? I believe he would say, history demands us to Take the Baton and use it.