I was grateful to be involved in an observance at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center on January 19, 2023 in remembrance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his legacy for an interfaith audience. These were my comments invited on behalf of the LGBT+ community, where I highlighted the campaign in Memphis where MLK ultimately would be assassinated.
Good afternoon. As a long time transgender religious organizer, I love reading civil rights history. Not just the highlight reels, but the back stories. Not just the quotes you see on social media, but whole speeches. It’s such a rich legacy that still has so much to teach us about the work of love and justiceRead more: MLK in Memphis
When the Rev Dr King was assassinated in 1968, he had been working in Memphis, Tennessee. If you check that history, you’ll find that it was a campaign that was about racial justice, yes. But it was also a campaign about economic justice–and at it’s core about the right to basic human dignity.
If you read or listen to his words in Memphis, all of his words, not just the highlight reel, You’ll find he was saying that even though some work is valued more than others, all work has dignity. On March 18th, 1968, he said, “Whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, [that work] has dignity and [that work] has worth.” That’s a word I think we all deserve to hear.
Dr King literally said that the work of sanitation workers is as significant as that of a physician. He was saying that whatever our job may be, whatever our lives may look like, whatever pronouns we use, whoever we count as family, whatever neighborhood or country we may have been born in, whatever faith we may or may not have, we are all human. We are all worthy of respect. We all deserve to be treated with dignity.
And Dr King urged us to know our place–that is to claim our value as children of the universe. He encouraged us to invest the time and energy it takes to see one another, not just as cogs in a machine, but, to recognize that each and every one of us, is beloved and worthy of care. And so I invite you to lift your spirits with me, in the name of all that is good and right.
We pray that everyone who enters this campus will know that they are welcome , that they are beloved, and that they are worthy of care. We pray that everyone who works here , that everyone who provides care, from environmental services to our medical professionals, will be celebrated for the important service they provide toward the building of humanity. May we find the wisdom to seek healing for our own broken places at least as much as we do for those we serve. As we remember the legacy of Dr King, may we find the strength to carry on his legacy and all those who labored with him. May even our hallway greetings be a kind of Prayer for the Beloved Community to be sustained in our midst.
Amen. Ashe. Blessed be.
- March 18, 1968, MLK “All Labor Has Dignity” (video excerpt)
- April 3, 1968, MLK “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” (video)
- Video with more historical context.
- Video remembrances highlighting deep poverty and plantation capitalism.
Compiled by Mx Chris Paige on January 21, 2023 (follow on Facebook). Please be in touch with corrections and feedback. This blog is a work in progress!