Kyair Butts (Courtesy photo)

By Kyair Butts

Can the structure fall if the foundation isn’t sound? Can Democracy and justice prevail when the citizens have seemingly lost their way? As 2022 begins, the light that is a new year and our future shines brightly upon all and a fundamental question must be asked just as Dr. King reasoned with school children in 1967: What is in your life’s blueprint?

The current state of “us-ness,” if you will, supposes that we are misguided in thought, mired in disbelief, and paralyzed by inaction. Dr. King implored us all to have an unwavering belief in our own “somebodiness” and that being Black (I’d argue that being “dark” in general as Dr. Bettina Love explains in her book) is beautiful. You are somebody. I am somebody. We are somebody. Love and fear are so often presented to us as the only choices we must make when confronted with adversity. Ultimately, some take the path of fear and in their folly are defeated. The path to love is also the path to light. Dr. King reminds us that to drive out dark we need not pursue dark (fear), but instead we need light (love) to drive out darkness. In itself, that is harder said than done, but what is progress without the necessary struggle toward it?

The mission and mindset of Dr. King is one that endures but cannot be one that is celebrated once a year as an obligatory “have to do.” Instead, we all should be embracing the call for equity daily as we pursue a world wherein  we “get to” do some good, we “get to” offer love and light, we “get to” heal ourselves and others. As Dr. King spoke to school children, he said (in part), “Our slogan should be ‘learn baby learn’ so that we can ‘earn baby earn.’” 

Too often the choppy and turbulent waters of hate, fear, and division can all too quickly sink the ship that is hope. Our steadfast commitment cannot be just to his words, but to his deeds and actions. Our collective, steady stewardship in fearful times can and will lead us to better. Dr. King believed in this with all his might, and we, too, must regain the hope and faith that he carried even when it was easiest to lose it.

Building a better world doesn’t mean tearing or burning the old one down. Building a better world means getting the inhabitants to be better, do better and know better. We have the blueprint for our life’s work. We have the people to do the work. Expecting better means being better. As we reflect on his life and his mission, let us remember to be light (love) when we see the shadows of darkness (fear) approaching. Let us remember to believe in our own worth and dignity so that we might uplift a neighbor and they the same to another. Let us remember our inherent beauty in being Black and human. Let us remember him: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Kyair Butts is a teacher and was named Baltimore City School Teacher of the Year 2019.

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