Monday, January 20, 2020

How to celebrate the MLK Holiday: Get Into "Good" Trouble

Today we observe a national holiday, honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He would have been 91 years old (January 15). It goes without saying, he died too young. 
MLK with Jackie Robinson
His message is as important today as it was at the March on Washington, in the Church in Birmingham, the walk to Selma and more. On Friday, I reminded my students that today is not a day off, but a day "ON." I said "Dr. King did not give his life so you could sleep in and play video games all day." 

I added, "Instead, I hope we ask the question: What can we do for justice?!" While intrigued by the idea of a "Day On," I'm afraid my question fell on deaf ears. It's banal, too broad, too sweeping. However, in Rep John Lewis (D-Ga), I found one that grabbed them: How can you get into a good kind of trouble?
I heard Rep. Lewis give this message to students at St. Ignatius College Prep on Ash Wednesday 2015. I was reminded of it when I heard NPR's Morning Edition Rep. John Lewis' Fight For Civil Rights Began With A Letter To Martin Luther King Jr. In this 3-minute listen, Lewis, the last living speaker from the March on Washington, noted that when he was very young, he "wanted to preach the Gospel." He did. 
"My philosophy is very simple: When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to stand up, you have to say something, you have to do something. 
His mother used to always warn him to stay out of trouble, he said. 
"But I told her that I got into a good trouble, necessary trouble," he said. "Even today, I tell people, 'We need to get in good trouble.' "
What a great play on words—words children have heard their entire lives. How it conjures up compelling imagery and creative thinking. How might we get into trouble...and be encouraged to do so? What IS a good kind of trouble?! 
Too often, I have conversations with students and athletes about what they cannot or should not do. How can we harness their energy to take action—and stand up for what is right? 
Let's continue to serve those in need long after the Christmas season.
Young people need assistance and accompaniment in order for this to happen. We have to bring them to the margins and the places where they can make good kind of trouble happen. I have long thought the NFL can and should set a precedent with a national day of service. We celebrated the AFC and NFC championships yesterday and await the Super Bowl in two weeks time. Why can't those teams and their local communities harness their energy, physicality, teamwork and resources to better 32 cities throughout the United States. We just might stir up a whole lot of trouble....good trouble. 


Photo Credits
MLK and 42

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