Dr. Martin Luther King has shaped me in more ways as a complete human than Blondie, Frank Stella, and Barbara Walters shaped me separately as a woman, artist, and communicator.
WE WILL HAVE TO REPENT IN THIS GENERATION NOT MERELY FOR THE VITRIOLIC WORDS AND ACTIONS OF THE BAD PEOPLE BUT FOR THE APPALLING SILENCE OF THE GOOD PEOPLE.
I read Dr. King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail for the first time about fifteen years ago, after 9/11. Every word is a fist raised high. This letter, written by a man from a jail cell on the edges of a newspaper, inspired the activist in me. Since then, I’ve struggled with what that means. Can I be a true activist, but also keep the career I love as a brand storyteller? In the times we live in today, where so many civil rights are at stake, as Judd Apatow tweeted “How are we supposed to work when all of reality is a freeway chase?”
IN ANY NONVIOLENT CAMPAIGN THERE ARE FOUR BASIC STEPS: COLLECTION OF THE FACTS TO DETERMINE WHETHER INJUSTICES ARE ALIVE, NEGOTIATION, SELF-PURIFICATION, AND DIRECT ACTION.
In 2002, after the Weapons of Mass Destruction lie was exposed, I participated in my own form of activism and moved to Paris because I did not want to live in that kind of America-a lying America. In 2011, I organized a panel at SXSW entitled Rebranding Islam that explored ways to unify with our Muslim brothers and sisters in America. I was both commended and excoriated by the media, political influencers and the Muslim American and Jewish communities. I owned a digital brand agency at the time and this was a turning point. I had the momentum and credibility to make this cause my job, but I’d give up my career. Ultimately chose my career instead. I didn’t have the vision at the time to merge my cause and storytelling, although now, with social media, it’s possible.
…YOU SEEK TO EXPLAIN TO YOUR SIX-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER WHY SHE CANNOT GO TO THE PUBLIC AMUSEMENT PARK THAT HAS JUST BEEN ADVERTISED ON TELEVISION, AND SEE TEARS WELLING UP IN HER LITTLE EYES WHEN SHE IS TOLD THAT FUNTOWN IS CLOSED TO COLORED CHILDREN, AND SEE THE DEPRESSING CLOUDS OF INFERIORITY BEGIN TO FORM IN HER LITTLE MENTAL SKY…
MLK day is just six days before The Women’s March on Washington on January 21. The Letter From Birmingham Jail and MLK’s legacy gives me strength in my activism. This election has awakened the activist in all of us. Some of you may decide to quit your job and work for organizations like the ACLU or Planned Parenthood and fully unify your cause and life purpose. Others, like me, will unify our work with our purpose when we can through projects (I created a line of Nasty Woman products), but make volunteering and donations the priority. Or you may boycott and campaign for political leaders that will bring about the change you seek.
THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF LAWS: THERE ARE JUST LAWS, AND THERE ARE UNJUST LAWS. I WOULD AGREE WITH ST. AUGUSTINE THAT “AN UNJUST LAW IS NO LAW AT ALL
Today, I’m no MLK or Gloria Steinem, and maybe you aren’t either. And I’m still struggling with the strength and power of my activism, but I’m involved in some way, and if you are too, that matters.
See you at The Women’s March on Washington January 21!
Photo Credit: Heather Jacobs
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