| Posted on 19 February, 2014
A Reflection on Black History Month and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
February 2014 has been a challenging month: arctic vortexes, snowstorms, sub-freezing temperatures, and multiple cancellations that have thrown us all for a loop. But February is also Black History Month – a time to remember and focus on some of the great contributions African-Americans have made to the United States.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the greatest civil rights leader in this nation’s history. His memorial in Washington, D.C. stands as a tribute to his work and legacy and reminds visitors from all across the nation and world of his work for peace with justice. Among his many well-known quotes is this one: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Dr. King’s dream extended beyond civil rights: he was also passionate about improving the economic condition for millions of Americans. He once said that poverty was a form of violence – structural violence – in which individuals suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Towards the end of his life he shifted some of his focus from civil rights to social justice and economic inequality. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he spoke these words:
“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it…Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table when man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life?…The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty. The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation.”
(For further reading see King’s entire speech at http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-acceptance.html.)
Today, Habitat for Humanity is one of the best international organizations in the ongoing fight against poverty. Since its founding in 1976 by Linda and Millar Fuller, Habitat International has built over 800,000 safe and affordable homes. Habitat believes that the most effective way to combat poverty is by providing a “hand up” to persons in need. Our hand up is offered through homeownership at affordable prices, made possible through volunteer labor and no-interest mortgages.
Statistics demonstrate that families living in a home are more successful on a range of issues, from school retention, drug and alcohol abuse, and teen pregnancy to the nurturance of a productive citizenry. Homeownership reduces poverty and leads to more stable communities. Homeownership, through Habitat for Humanity, enables us to participate in the bending of the moral universe towards justice. It is a good organization in which to invest your time, talents, gifts, and service. While poor weather conditions have delayed our construction efforts, we know that spring is on the horizon. Together, we will make it through this cold and gloomy weather, and continue building on Dr. King’s dream – right here in South Hampton Roads.