January 22, 2020

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We gather each year at this time to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We march together as an act of shared humanity, solidarity, and understanding of the power of collective action in fighting injustice.

I was too young to know of Dr. King in his time, but my family certainly knew and talked about his legacy. Our family experienced redlining and segregation, prohibited from living in parts of Los Angeles. Our Japanese family friend was interned, though my grandfather fought it in every way he could. I grew up experiencing anti-semitism and sexism, but more importantly to me, I grew up seeing the effects of discrimination and injustice on others.

Our personal histories inform our understanding, values, and commitments. It’s where we must start, but not where we must end. The easier parts of Dr. King’s legacy are his teachings on peace and love. The harder parts are the empathy it takes to listen to those who challenge you, the commitment it takes to understand systemic oppression, and the bravery it takes to stand up to injustice.

As you walk today, I ask you to think about what you need to learn, who you need to be, and what you need to do to help solve the gravest injustices of our time. I hope that’s what brought you here this morning.

I can tell you what brought me here. I’m here to stand against racial injustice, which continues in the countless ways that we target people of color in our justice system, educational system, voting access and social services.

I’m here to stand against environmental injustice, where we continue to subject the poorest among us to the most toxic living conditions, and preserve access to public lands for only the most wealthy.

I’m here to stand against gender injustice and lack of equal protection for members of the LGBT community, particularly in a state with the worst gender pay gap in the country and outrageous levels of violence against women, all of which affect women of color disproportionately.

And I'm here to stand for the knowledge, compassion, love, and courage that it takes to fight for justice.

I’m here to stand with you, proud of the commitments you’ve made to your education, to gaining the knowledge and skills that will help you solve the problems of our time. Dr. King famously said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Let’s move forward together, both today, and every day.

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