BEING SILENT ON THE THINGS THAT MATTER
This past weekend, I attended Tavis Smiley's "State of the Black Union" Conference in Atlanta, GA. As I sat in the santuary of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, a quote of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s replayed in my head like a refrain from a song. The quote is "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." While it did my heart and spirit a world of good to hear heavyweights in the Civil Rights movement like Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, or the Rev. Joseph Lowery, Michael Eric Dyson or Minister Louis Farrakhan, exhorting those of us in the audience and watching on C-Span, my mind kept repeating Dr. King's quote.
Can we continue to be silent on the matter of no longer having a free press, freedom of expression or the freedom to participate in political dissent, because dissent is essential to having true democracy?
Can we continue to be silent on the matter of a government whose sole mission is to continue to reward the wealthy at the expense of the poor?
Can we continue to be silent on the matter of not having a guaranteed, fundamental, inalienable right to a quality education, affordable, liveable, sustainable housing, not to mention a sustainable and replenishing environment, quality healthcare and jobs that pay liveable, sustainable, family-supportable wages?
Can we continue to be silent on the matter of a woman's right to control reproductive choice, or quality, comprehensive education and information on health issues such as preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, developing sexuality, diabetes, hypertension, mental illnesses, not to mention the need to educate about medical treatment of all with sensitivity and awareness in a cultural and linguistically competent manner, while teaching the need for staying healthy, eating right, being active?
Can we continue to be silent on the matter of our elderly - their quality of life, now that they have earned the right to retire and rest from their labors, while being attacked on an economic scale in terms of eliminating access to medicines that would enhance their quality of life, as well as sustaining the trust fund into which they have paid in preparation for retirement and enjoyment of their golden years?
Can we continue to be silent on the matter that this government has sought to divide rather than unite; facilitates an inherent contempt for the poor, the elderly, the downtrodden, men and women of color, homosexuals, by initiating programs, initiatives and policies guaranteed to steal, kill and destroy life as we now know it?
I read a book by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Illinois) titled: "A More Perfect Union: Advancing New American Rights" which I recommend everyone to read if you are trying to muster up courage to find your voice and not remain silent. The book makes compelling arguments for healthcare, education, the environment, housing, jobs, to be an inalienable, fundamental, Constitutional right of every American in this country. None of these factors should be given to the few, or the privaleged, if you read and interpret the U. S. Constitution on its face.
During the conference, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. reprimanded some of the ministers on the panel forum, for going to meet with GeeDubya and implying to him that the only issues of importance to African-Americans in our community were gay marriage and abortion. Rev. Jackson proceeded to take a survey of the audience, asking us how important to us was it to have jobs that paid livable wages, a healthy environment, universal health care, affordable housing, quality public education? Nearly every hand in the room went up.
Then he asked us who would be affected by gay marriage? No hands went up in the air.
"So why do we tell the President that the most important issue in the Black Community is gay marriage?" he asked us. "We have been taken out by a Weapon of Mass Distraction!" Rev. Jackson told us. And to the ministers on the panel, Bishop Eddie Long and Rev. Harry Jackson, Rev. Jackson told them, "Shame on you for going to the House of the most Powerful Leader of the Free World and telling him that first, YOU speak for all African-Americans, and while you had the opportunity to talk to the President about the issues that are most important to African-Americans, the only things that came out of your mouths were abortion and gay marriage!" The crowd went wild with applause and a standing ovation, while these two Pastors hung their heads in shame.
An even further shame is that both of their churches were recipients of Bush's Faith-Based Money Pie. All I can say here is "Two Negro Pastors for Rent"...
The issues that concern Black America, are universal issues that are important to all Americans, Black, White, Brown, Red and Yellow, gay or straight, married or single, Christian, Jew, Catholic, Protestant, Episcopalian, Unitarian, Non-Believer, Agnostic or Atheist.
We ALL want a sustainable environment, decent, affordable housing, quality public education for our children as well as those who missed out the first time; we ALL want jobs that pay livable wages above the poverty line, healthcare, and be able to return to the communities that nurtured us from infancy to adulthood. We ALL want to be treated with dignity, respect, honor and sensitivity to our individuality, our uniqueness, our ethnicity, our heritage. And the day we stop talking about these things that do matter to every human being on this earth, but more importantly in the United States of America, our lives don't begin to end: I submit that the day we begin to be silent on the things that matter to us as a Nation, as part of the human race, our lives have already ended, and we become walking zomies, unable to contribute anything that makes life worth living.
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." Remember, when Dr. King wrote that, he wrote it from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. If it meant something then, how much more does it have meaning for us 42 years later.
Therefore, we can't afford to be silent on the things that matter. The cost we would have to pay is the ending of our lives. And that's a price that's too expensive for you or for me, to pay.
My name is Leutisha Stills and I am the Christian Progressive Liberal. I don't care if you approve of this message, I feel it so strongly in my heart and soul that I could NOT keep silent.