Monday, January 17, 2022

Martin Luther King reading his Letter from a Birmingham Jail

In honor of Martin Luther King day, posting King reading his tremendous Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Give it a listen. It has potency still today as we reflect on our current moment and as we consider models of nonprofit leadership. Much of the civil rights work was carried out through nonprofits and the letter came from King in his role in leading a large group of nonprofits.  Here is the introduction:

"WHILE confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities "unwise
and untimely." Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms
that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time for
constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like
to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of "outsiders
coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating
in every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliate organizations all across the
South, one being the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Whenever necessary and possible, we share staff,
educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago our local affiliate here in Birmingham invited us to be
on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promises. So I am here, along with several members of my staff, because we were invited here. I am here because I have basic organizational ties here.

Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be
concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an
inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never
again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can
never be considered an outsider.

You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being. I am sure that each of you would want to go beyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. I would not
hesitate to say that it is unfortunate that so-called demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham at this time, but I would say in more emphatic terms that it is even more unfortunate that the white power structure of this city left the Negro community  with no other alternative." 

You can read the text here

Philip Hackney

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/nonprofit/2022/01/martin-luther-king-reading-his-letter-from-a-birmingham-jail.html

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