Executive Director Column 1/21/14
This year the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday took on special significance for many of us.
First, I want to thank all of you for your tremendous support throughout the year, with particular thanks to the many who contributed to our year end appeal. It takes just a little from a great many people to ensure that CFJC continues to speak out on your behalf, and you can always be part of the growing number of people who have become regular contributors at any time by visiting our website.
But with regard to MLK, Jr., while it is amazing to see how he has come to symbolize many different things to many people, I remember him as a revolutionary figure in a time when our country was deeply divided.
Not unlike the current state of affairs, when wealth continues to accumulate by the top 1% of the U.S. population at an alarming rate; voter laws are enacted to disenfranchise people of color and a growing class of the poor; our country at war in far corners of the world; and Congress shoring up policies that have a strangle hold by corporations on the throats of the American taxpayer and the poor.
We need that revolutionary spirit and leadership of the Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember, even as we celebrate the national holiday.
Today Congress continues on recess, and when they return next week, they have two days to address expired Unemployment Benefits for more than a million people and counting and a Farm Bill delayed two years, before President Obama delivers his State of the Union address.
And we really have no reason to believe leaders in the House will join in the work of the people, before recessing for the remainder of the week to meet behind closed doors in political party retreat.
At the same time, CFJC staff will be in D.C. assisting with and participating in the 3rd Annual GOAT (Getting Our Act Together) Convening of groups from across the country—most definitely working on the people’s business—and working on your business, with regard to the Farm Bill and related issues.
As we begin 2014 we make the following commitments:
- To work towards transparency in all of our efforts
- Hold a light to the actions of our elected representatives
- Connect the dots between issues of poverty, race, and income inequality
- Collect and tell the stories of diverse people across the country suffering by a culture of greed
- Hold space for the hard discussions, including
- Rebuilding our food system
- Race, power and privilege
- Minimum wage
- Voters’ rights
- Affordable Care Act and access to health care
- Movement building
- Climate change and the intersection with public health
Everyone at CFJC—staff, volunteer interns, our Steering Committee, and partners—begins the year with renewed energy to help reshape the path of self-destruction on which our country seems bent.
Because just as an addict or alcoholic can be seen to make choices that exhibit self-destructive behavior, so we believe the choices our leaders are making exhibit an alarming case of self-destructive behavior, if you believe the business of Congress should be the people’s business, and not just ideological bluster and corporate giveaways.
To be sure, there are representatives who work tirelessly on behalf of the people, but they are tragically out-maneuvered by a very small minority of electeds propped up by corporate interests and the 1%, where money is afforded the rights of citizens and “corporations are people too, my friend” remains the mantra of ideologues who continue in denial of their self-destructive behavior.
In 2014 we all have to come out of the cocoon of denial.
Martin Luther King, Jr., was a great man. But in addition to the personal attributes and commitment that would no doubt make him a great man at any point in history, it was the times that called to the man. And it was a call which he answered.
Do we need to be reminded, or did you not know, that at the time, Dr. King was demonized by public figures and much of the press?
I opined at the opening of this column that Dr. King was a revolutionary figure and from my perspective and the perspective of many poor and people of color that was the case.
And perhaps that is the very reason why he was demonized, in his time.
I belabor the point, because as we call on you to stand up and be counted for a new war on poverty, to stand with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the issues and values for which he lived, worked, and died, you should know that if you do it right, you can expect to be demonized as well.
It is a historical imperative, that the status quo resists change, and while in the best of times this represents a healthy balance of governance and leadership, what we are experiencing now is not healthy.
You really have no choice but to become more engaged in the work of all of our people.
To not do so is to stand on the wrong side of history.
And it is going to hurt.
It is going to hurt financially, as you commit to providing funds to CFJC and other causes.
It is going to hurt as you entertain your community’s hard discussions, in your living rooms and public centers.
It is going to hurt as ideologues of every stripe make accusations against your best intentions.
It is going to hurt as members of families end up on opposite sides of passionate discussions.
It is going to hurt, because in the process, you will experience the kind of personal growth that is the very hallmark of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
And it is in that experience, by experiencing that hurt, that you will know you are on the right path.
And then, when you look back 50 years from now, you can truly say that you fought for the basic human rights of access to healthy food, the Affordable Care Act and health care for all, care for our poor, and rebuilding a middle class comprised of all places and people across the U.S.
This then, is the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., today.
From all of us at CFJC, the Steering Committee, staff and interns, and the many volunteers—all the best in the New Year.
Please take a moment now and make a donation to CFJC, because as above, we will continue to work on your behalf, and we need your financial support.
Blessings and well wishes,
Y. Armando Nieto
CFJC Executive Director