MLK Day has been a very special day for me since my senior year of high school. I attended my first rally/protest at Central United Methodist Church right next to Comerica Park and remember it vividly. The program before the march served as a platform for local activists to highlight their work in King’s legacy. The march was a strident and powerful display of collective power and action. It was thrilling to me.
The year after that, I spent MLK Day in Washington, D.C.
The year after that, MLK Day didn’t exist because we skipped it by crossing the international date line at see. My friends and I still acknowledged it.
This year, I celebrated it with four beautiful people at a small gazebo around the corner from my aunt’s place right off the ocean.
Celebration usually come to my mind as these grand gestures of pomp and circumstance. Music playing, a meal served, and a keynote speaker are all aspects that come to mind of a potential celebration. This was not the case today.
Today, we gathered as a small group of five at this gazebo. My aunt’s friend JaNeal led us in a beautiful prayer giving thanks for this day and for the occasion that brought us together. We then spoke as a group about my latest writing on Martin Luther King, Jr. and I heard feedback from others. Lastly, we all sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as an ode to those who had come before us.
Simple, but beautiful. Having nothing but ourselves, a pretty basket of snacks, and a few print outs of a HuffPost article, I felt as if I had truly honored King in a multitude of ways. The power of community was palpable. The feelings of kinship, togetherness, and mutual importance shared made me feel as if I were at a gathering one hundred times the size of what we were.
My aunt’s friend Mwenya really got me thinking. Martlin Luther King, Jr. was complicated both personally and in his politics. For better or for worse (it’s really for worse), his contemporary popularity as a historical has sanitized his being. Many of us strip him of his flaws and cast him as being this plastic version of himself, free from the perversion of world.
Today I felt called to not only to recognize King is the fullest version of himself, but to also see others with their complications. Not in spite of, not in lieu of, but as part of them.
King said that we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. I agree with this and posit that our complications line the silk web. It’s what we share as people.
I’m looking forward to embracing complications in 2018. The complexity of the individual is what makes a society interesting to begin with, right?