A Call to Community from Dr. King

A Call to Community from Dr. King

At the end of the year 1967 the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) decided that it was time to launch the Poor People’s Campaign.

This was an effort at launching a broad movement across axes of race, gender, and class that focused on alleviating poverty.

Prior to the SCLC launching the Poor People’s Campaign, their president, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, outlined his socioeconomic focus and the role of a creative dissenter in bringing about the beloved community – a community wherein we live with each other in peace in Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?.

In the text he urges the following:

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.[1]

 

Tomorrow is today.

The future is now.

I encourage you to read Where in its entirety, though I elevate this quote now as a favorite of mine because King proffers a framework through which we might guide our daily work.

Which will you choose: chaos or community? The choice must be made and urgently so.

 

In my role as Assistant Director of Community Life & International Student Advisor at Columbia Theological Seminary, I continue to choose community.

The development, curation, and maintenance of a robust community life are at the fore of what I’ve been tasked to do at CTS and I am absolutely grateful for it!

With students, faculty, and staff from all corners of the world my colleagues and I work in and against chaos in the world to foster a sense of community here at CTS.

 

In thinking about how we might reference and mobilize Dr. King’s reminder of the urgency of now, we have at hand, at minimum, two tasks.

First, we must maintain a sustained critical engagement with Dr. King’s vast body of work – scholarship and deeds.

Poet Carl Wendell Hines Jr. wrote in the wake of Malcolm X’s death:

 

So now that he is safely dead,

We, with eased consciences will

Teach our children that he was a great man,

Knowing that the cause for which he

Lived is still a cause

And the dream for which he died is still a dream.[2]

 

My belief is that engaging with Dr. King’s scholarship, his theologies, his conversation partners, and those he built community with will offer insight that is applicable to our present.

Further, such an investigation will serve as a reminder of both the urgency of now and the continuity of that which is still a dream, a partially actualized one at best.

Second, we are tasked to find creative and communal ways to transform chaos into community.

Often what presents itself as chaotic – difference in race, faith, gender, sexuality, creed, political – is merely an opportunity for growth together.

Living into these tasks will situate us as a community in tune with and squarely within the traditions from which Dr. King derives.


Khalfani Lawson is Assistant Director of Community Life & International Student Advisor at Columbia Theological Seminary. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University and Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Additionally, he is a loving husband and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

[1] Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Martin Luther King Jr. (1967), p. 202

[2] “A Dead Man’s Dream,” Carl Wendell Hines Jr. (1965)

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