Shaun King, the revolutionary activist, reporter and powerful voice for truth in the Black Lives Matter movement, spoke at Harvard University last month about what we can do to end racial injustice in our communities. I was lucky enough to hear him speak, and I want to share his top 3 messages. Then I want to talk about where you come in.
1) Be present
"Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is just be present." - Shaun King
You never know how much your willingness to bear witness and be with someone else's suffering could mean to them. You won’t always know how to help, but just acknowledging the problem instead of turning away can make a difference.
2) Be bothered
Have you ever wondered how the hell you can be truly happy, when there is so much suffering in the world? Me too. I'm starting to think maybe "being happy" is not what matters. We are all bothered by certain things uniquely. I may have a fire in my belly for women's rights. Maybe for you it's children, or animals, or the environment.
"Your purpose and your plan in life is really embedded in what bothers you. Be bothered." - Shaun King
3) Be organized
"Be present for people's pain. Be bothered by injustice. But be organized" - Shaun King
There are systems of oppression in place that keep certain injustices happening, and it's going to take targeted efforts to change those systems. I’m struggling with this one the most, because I don’t have all the answers about how to solve the world’s problems.
I did come away convinced of something. We are living through a revolutionary period in history. From the misogyny and bigotry stirred up by this election, to the Black Lives Matter movement, the increase in mass shootings, and all of the tragedies our country has gone through in the last few years. History is being written now. Sometimes it may be hard to notice. You’re busy trying to pay the rent, or wondering if your kid has a fever, or what you’re going to have for dinner. While life goes on, the ground is shifting beneath our feet. Your grandchildren will read about 2016 in their history books. What will your part in the story be?
For now, here are a few things I’ve decide to do:
Where I live, early voting is an option. I voted for Hillary Clinton as the next President of the United States. I think the alternative is far too dangerous for our country and for the world. (That doesn’t mean I value your humanity any less if you disagree.)
You don’t always have to lead to make a difference. Check out this quick TED clip explaining why. There are people doing great work, and following them can be just as powerful as starting a movement yourself.
Use whatever resources you’ve got
For the past 5 years, I’ve been pouring my heart into blogging, passionately, if a bit sporadically, and wondering how I could reach more people. I’ve changed taglines, site layouts and titles several times along the way, and another change is coming.
See, I realized I happen to own a business, with not only several physical locations, but also a website that gets a lot more traffic than my blog. Because I care about my message reaching as many of you as possible, and because it’s important to me that you know the values behind the business, I’m going to be moving this blog under the Barre & Soul umbrella.
You might be wondering, what if people don’t agree with me or are offended by my message? First let me say that agreeing with me is by no means a requirement to be a valued member of the community at Barre & Soul, and I don’t plan to hound you with political talk as you lie in savasana, trying to get a little peace. I love and respect you and your opinion, even if it differs from mine.
That said, I will continue to blog and use social media as my soap box, because I care about the future of our society, and because I feel I must. Sometimes I’ll change some minds, sometimes I’ll be met with agreement, and sometimes I’ll be met with opposition.
In fact, sometimes speaking up means being attacked - both figuratively and literally. One of the greatest teachers I've ever had used to point to Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and John Lennon, to name a few, who changed the world and were taken from us by violence.
"You know the difference between you and them?” he would say. “They were all worth shooting."
Yep, he had a dark sense of humor. I mean, DAMN, he encouraged us regularly to be someone worth shooting. That’s pretty extreme, but when I question playing it safe or speaking my mind, I always think of his words.
I want to hear from you.
What bothers you deeply? How do you get organized around the things that matter to you? And what do you think about the idea of being “someone worth shooting?” Will you be in the history books, and if so what will they say? Please join the conversation on Facebook!