On January 17, 2022, the nation celebrated MLK Holiday (aka, King Day), a federal holiday in the namesake of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It has become a day of giving back, of honoring his life and work. As a recent student of The King Center’s Nonviolence 365 philosophy, I feel it necessary to briefly share the work of Reverend Dr. King, Jr.’s wife, Coretta Scott King (April 27, 1927 – January 30, 2006), while faith leaders across the state of North Carolina contemplate manifesting visions through yet another year of a global pandemic. On the King Center website, her life’s work entails, “traveled throughout the United States and the world speaking out on behalf of racial and economic justice, women’s and children’s rights, gay and lesbian dignity, religious freedom, gun control, the needs of the poor and homeless, full employment, health care, educational opportunities, nuclear disarmament, and environmental justice.” Keeping her works in mind, Building Back Better federal funding through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) can make a difference in how we recover from devastation and inequity within underserved, disadvantaged, and minority communities.
Having preached about “beloved community” on at least a couple of occasions, I leaped at the opportunity to study the concept with The King Center in 2021. Since participating in Nonviolence 365 trainings, I have purchased many books written by and about Dr. King, Jr., adding to a few already in my home library. Concerning this look back in Black Women’s Herstory, I reflected on Coretta Scott King’s My Life, My Love, My Legacy after reading Reverend Bernice King’s dedication to her mother on the date of her transition, January 30. Within the pages of her memoir, Coretta Scott King tells her narrative about life with her husband and life after his April 4, 1968 assassination, including founding The King Center in Atlanta shortly after that. She also describes the beloved community:
To me, the “beloved community” is a realistic vision of an achievable society, one in which problems and conflicts exist but are resolved peacefully and without bitterness. In the “beloved community,” caring and compassion drive political policies that support the worldwide elimination of poverty and hunger and all forms of bigotry and violence. The Beloved Community is a state of heart and mind, a spirit of hope and goodwill that transcends all boundaries and barriers and embraces all creation. At its core, the “beloved community” is an engine of reconciliation. This way of living seems a long way from the kind of world we have now. Still, I believe we can accomplish this goal through courage, determination, education, and training if enough people are willing to make the necessary commitment.
Although neither she nor Dr. King, Jr. coined the term “beloved community,” in 2022, faith-based communities may certainly do well to continue using the ideology as a foundation for recovering from the global pandemic that disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities in the United States.
In Alamance County, a couple of months ago, the board of county commissioners heard public comments on how ARP funds should be distributed. During the set time, since my colleagues made presentations from various organizations and community groups with which I locally serve, my comment appealed to the heart of the commissioners to act justly towards Black communities. For example, the Burlington neighborhood where I grew up as a young girl now faces gentrification from the housing development nearly overtaking it. A rundown corridor, where I walked to the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club, needs near future revitalization. Unfortunately, only a few Black ministers attended the commissioner’s meeting to make public comments.
Let this message encourage us all to advocate for our communities, compelling government officials to fund equity in transportation, environmental justice, and broadband access, along with other life-affirming matters throughout 2022. May we continue Coretta Scott King’s vision and labor to build the “beloved community” among us.
Rev. Donna Vanhook, M.Div
Faith Engagement Team Contributor - HerStory