This past month, our community, like many others across the country, came together to celebrate equality and inclusion as part of Black History Month. At events hosted throughout the area, we honored the accomplishments of women and men who have stood up and challenged society to recognize the intrinsic value each and every one of us offers in the spirit of social justice, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
I had the honor of being asked to speak at a number of these events, including the West Coast Black Theatre Troupe's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration. In preparing my remarks for that gathering I revisited one of my favorite sermons from Dr. King entitled "Rediscovering Lost Values." It is one that he wrote in 1954 and that developed themes he would return to time and again throughout his life.
In the sermon, Dr. King reflects on the idea that the power to change the world comes not from new advances in science or technology but rather from time-honored values that have bound us together in shared humanity throughout the ages. "Be just and honest and kind and true and loving," he reminds us, and we can overcome any obstacle.
It is a simple message, and one that should be referred to all year long, not just on ceremonial occasions. It is a message all too easy to forget in our busy, modern world with the conveniences that allow us to travel the globe and buy anything we want from Amazon and receive it in the mail the next day. Even as we are more "connected" through social media and the 24-hour news cycle, these vehicles run the risk of driving us apart rather than bringing us together.
Engaging with others who share our opinions, beliefs and experiences feels comfortable and safe. Indeed, it is. Yet, there is a danger to always staying within our "comfort zones." As New York Times' columnist David Brooks points out, by failing to make healthy connections with others - even those with whom we may sharply disagree - we create an inability to appreciate the full dignity of one another. The result can lead to a sense of "fear, distrust, tribalism, shaming and strife."
But it doesn't have to be that way. Using as an example of a project he and others from the Aspen Institute started last year called "Weave: The Social Fabric Project," Brooks discusses how individuals and organizations around the country are coming together to create what he calls a sense of radical mutuality. "When we stereotype, abuse, impugn motives and lie about each other, we've ripped the social fabric," he says. "When we love across boundaries, listen patiently, see deeply and make someone feel known, we've woven it and reinforced generosity."
This powerful idea of "radical mutuality," of weaving our society together rather than tearing it apart, is one that I see happening within our own community. It was on display this past month at events like the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration I mentioned earlier, as well as the Boxser Diversity Initiative at New College. It also lies at the heart of what The Dharma Footprint Project, Unidos Now, Second Chance Last Opportunity, the Asolo Repertory Theatre's IllumiNation series and other winners of Sarasota Magazine's recent Unity Awards are doing each and every day.
All of these efforts help strengthen the fabric of our community and provide opportunities for important cross-cultural conversations to take place, not only during Black History Month but year-round. They also remind us that through the simple acts of being just, honest, kind, true and loving we can learn to appreciate all that we share in common rather than just the ways in which we are different.
Your Community Foundation is proud to be a part of this movement, and we thank you for joining us along the way! Please let me know what you have been up to lately by dropping me a line. I would love to hear what you have on your mind.