Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
This quote is my mantra for the year, and I thought I would dedicate a slice to reflecting on why it matters so much to me this year. It's from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's book Strength to Love, a collection of his homilies. Last year, for my 50th birthday, I gave away a copy of Martin's Big Words at almost every professional development session I led (and I share my b'day with MLK, so this was especially meaningful for me), and often directed teachers to this page, which I think contains some of Martin's most important teachings: what will you do when faced with darkness? With hate?
I have always protected myself with the cloak of "I'm an urban teacher, of course I'm doing my part of equity." But in the past 2 years, I've grown new muscles and a renewed commitment to not only "being for equity" but engaging in hard conversations, taking political action, fighting for policies and making the work of allyship (as a privileged white straight woman) waaay more active. My partner in this work is often my friend L, who reminds me that it's important to "be intentional" and the brilliant role model Bryan Stevenson tells us that we need to "be proximate" to our work and step toward and into inequality if you want to change it. And I hold MLK's quote with me, as I get into that uncomfortable space:
"I see injustice and unfairness. Tell me what you're feeling. I am hear to listen, and to respond with light and respond with love."
Doing the work with light and love is HARD. MAN! I want to gossip. I want to judge. I want to roll over & pretend "this is not my problem." I want to fix, to talk, to shake someone. And I have to hold those responses in check; take a breath; and recognize my place. To hold silence and to hold judgment. To engage when asked, and when not asked to engage, decide carefully, not impulsively, what to do next. To recognize the huge amount of privilege I bring into a room without even talking. To focus on trust-building all the time. To minimize assumptions. And let me say again: to listen.
The past two years, I have made mistakes, and I have been granted forgiveness. I have taken on a leadership role in a complicated space in a wealthy community with a persistent achievement gap. I have far to go in learning how to ally, how to listen, and how to work for change. But I will continue to go with light and love as my guidance.
from Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport & illustrated by Bryan Collier