“When you pray, pray with your feet” was the theme of Dr. Vernon Jordan’s keynote address at the Martin Luther King breakfast on January 19th. Actually the printed title for this 2nd annual Conference honoring Dr. King was “Infinite Hope, Meaningful Action: the Color of Unity.” There is a definite progression here: hope alone moves no boundaries (but it is infinitely important). Wise and meaningful action, measured responses, disciplined people must embody that hope in order for there to be change in the systems that continue to haunt our beloved country, our “beloved community,” a term spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King himself, as well as promulgated by current Congressman John Lewis!
It is no secret that racist actions continue to visit the black community. Actually the rapidity with which we are confronted and informed of such racist actions leaves our heads reeling! These cause us to ask: “Has there been any progress since the March on Selma and on Washington during these 50 years ago?”
Of course there has been! And Dr. Jordan cleverly made a litany of the tears of JOY that Martin Luther King would shed-- if he were alive today-- to see his four little children walking hand in hand with little white children to a desegregated school, to mention but one change in the past 50 years.
But, Dr. Jordan also cleverly made a litany of the tears of SORROW that Martin Luther King would shed-- if he were alive today-- to read our news reports of so many deaths, among our colored brothers and sisters, due to the cruel discrimination in our justice system and in our personal inability to rid ourselves of prejudice.
Progress has been made—no doubt about it—but the progress has had a rocky journey; that progress has never been linear. Currently, the right to register and vote hounds us in this beloved community. The tough task is to get people to vote! We must take the responsibility! Although we may be ready to get arrested, Dr. Jordan admitted, most of us are not ready to re-build our institutions. We need a big dose of what he called “divine dissatisfaction.” St. Cloud may be stumbling toward a spoken goal of being a “Model City of Integration” but according to a Somali gentleman and a Hispanic lawyer at my table, we have a journey into the future that demands an audacious faith, the courage to speak up in the face of another’s being treated as an OBJECT and both wise and meaningful action that will change public disunity into the action and color of unity! Passive acceptance is not enough. . .nor is HOPE alone sufficient in changing systems. We have to “pray with our feet!”
S. Renée Domeier, OSB