I just wanted to take a moment to honor Martin Luther King Jr. today and talk briefly about his influence on my life and, particularly, on my career as a journalist. For most, MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech is the pinnacle of his influence on not just the United States of America, but also the world. It’s his mark on history, one of the most widely read and watched texts of all time.
As a child, I remember my small, predominately-Caucasian Catholic elementary school setting aside time both on MLK Day and during Black History Month to educate us on his life and memory. Foregoing the predictable, we sat down and read his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in its entirety, taking turns each paragraph. As I read these words today, that same feeling I felt as a child revisits me. There’s a passage from that letter that has not only become one of my favorite quotes, but also my personal mantra as a journalist.
“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.”
I get choked up, to this day, even writing these words. I like to think that indirectly these words pushed my career toward the path of conflict journalism. You see, I struggle deeply with that first line. I am a firm believer in the unity of humanity. I believe in that “single garment of destiny.” We are all on the same path, aren’t we? And then, for some more than others, that path is deterred by injustice. That injustice exists in many beings — some seen, some hidden, all omnipresent.
As it says in the headline of my site, I am a storyteller. But whose story do I tell? I fight to tell the stories of those carrying the burden of injustice on their backs. I lean toward advocacy journalism, the kind that collides with complex societal and humanitarian issues in some small, yet great hope to make sense of it and incite change. As a journalist, I hope to combat injustice by telling its story.
Today, President Barack Obama was publicly sworn into office for his second term. For the second time in his lifetime, he delivered his inauguration speech. In that speech, he highlighted several examples of injustice in this country, but only one brought a tear to my eye as it was the first time in American history this injustice has been addressed in a presidential inauguration speech:
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
As a journalist enlisted in this war against injustice, equality is the surface, the shell, the core, the meat of my heart. There can be no justice without equality. For my president, the first bi-racial president, to stand on the same platform MLK once stood and deliver these words of equality, I can’t put into words what that means to me. Thank you, Martin Luther King Jr., for creating the blueprint that led to this day and continues to lead us on this journey to justice.