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Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King – Forging Nonviolent Beliefs

By Christine Mason

Last night as I was teaching yoga, I played some of Sweet Honey in the Rock’s music in honor of Martin Luther King. Actually, I have made a habit of playing gospel music in my yoga classes as we approach MLK Day each year. Last night, listening to Bernice Johnson Reagon sing Give Your Hands in Struggle, I turned my thoughts to what to post about his day this year, during a time of too much violence and not enough freedom. This morning I found at a little more about Dr. Reagon.

Perhaps you have heard of the National Council of Elders? Dr. Reagon is one of the Elders.

Statement of Mission and Purpose – National Council of Elders

We are 20th century organizers committed to the theory and practice of nonviolence, united to engage with organizers of the 21st century.

We are urgently called to this mission by the escalation of all forms of violence and the rise of anti-democratic forces.

We are working toward a United States free of the domination of racism, sexism, militarism, materialism, economic inequality, and the destruction of the natural world.

At their website they describe the Greensboro Declaration (formed in 2012) and provide an opportunity for you to endorse the resolution.

“Let us seize on the opportunity and in the inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “to hew out of the mountain of despair” stones of hope. History has given all of us ‘“ but especially the young generation of the 21st century, the opportunity to forge non-violent hearts, non-violent lives that will result in a caring, nonviolent society.”

Here is another link for songs honoring MLK for schools , including songs such as Free at Last, We have a Dream, Freedom Riders Got to Ride. Thanks to Google there are so many ways to link up with great resources for schools to use. As I listened again to some of the songs this morning, I reflected on the power of song to move, to motivate, to inspire, and to help us understand at deeper levels.

Bernice Johnson Reagon Bio

From her bio statement at her website: “These days, I come as ‘˜songtalker,’ one who balances talk and song in the creation of a live performance conversation with those who gather within the sound of my voice. As a student leader and activist in the Albany Movement, I sang and stood in the sound of the congregational singing of the freedom songs charging the air we breathed. For the first time, I understood how the singing not only pulled us together, but became our articulate collective testimony to all who stood within the sound.

For more than a half-century Bernice Johnson Reagon has been a major cultural voice for freedom and justice; singing, teaching’”speaking out against racism and organized inequities of all kinds. A child of Southwest Georgia, an African American woman’s voice, born in the struggle against racism in America during the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s. Reagon’s life and work supports the concept of community based culture with an enlarged capacity for mutual respect: for self, for those who move among us who seem to be different than us, respect and care for our home, the environment’” including the planet that sustains life as we know it.”


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