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Sounding Board: Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?

Stephy Nobles-Beans

Stephy Nobles-Beans, coordinator of diversity, equity and inclusion, and a campus minister at Whitworth University, began her speech at Spokane’s March 15 Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally singing, “I won’t let anyone turn me around, I’m heading up the King’s highway.”

She challenged those at the rally who yelled during Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers’ speech, saying the behavior was no example “for our children” and urged them to take their feelings to the polls. Stephy, who has 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, called for respect of politicians with different opinions.  She knows where hate can lead.  Her grandfather and father-in-law were killed because of hate.

We are here to celebrate Dr. King.  We need leaders who are not in love with money but in love with justice, not in love with publicity, but in love with humility,” she said.

Fifty years ago on April 4, she said, the world lost one of its greatest peacemakers, sending shockwaves around the world.

She asked Spokane the question King asked when reflecting on a decade of civil rights struggles, in his last book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

“We have chaos in the White House, chaos in the church house, chaos in the school house and chaos in some of our homes.  We have enough chaos.  What we need is community.”

She knows the civil rights movement involved “much chaos, disorder, confusion, bedlam and turmoil, but the Dreamer had a dream of a community, a vibrant, multiracial nation united in justice, peace and reconciliation, a nation that has a place at the table for children of every race and room at the inn for every needy child. In the midst of chaos, King’s voice and vision filled a great void in our nation and answered our collective longing to become a country that truly lived by its noblest principles.”

“Over the years of working for civil rights, people from different walks of life have come together as a community marching against the injustices, racism and brutality against those with skins of the darkest hue.  People came from around the world as a community and locked hand in hand, arm in arm, singing, ‘We shall overcome.’

“Fifty years ago in the midst of chaos, this visionary leader embraced the unity of all faiths in love and truth.  He celebrated the values of equality, tolerance and interracial sister- and brotherhood.  He expressed these values  in his dream for America,” Stephy said.

“Where do we go from here, chaos or community?” she asked again.

“I pray we choose community.  There are people from every walk of life here in our community—African American, Hispanic, Native American, Caucasian, Asian American, African, Marshallese, Russian or German,” she said.

“Whatever ethnicity you are, you are part of this community,” she affirmed. “Dr. King was a black man, but this is not a black holiday.  This is a people’s holiday.”

Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as the next generations, hold the keys to fulfill his dream.

She called for her peers to teach young people how to live in community and not in chaos. 

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday commemorates a global leader who inspired nonviolent liberation movements around the world.  So there are commemorations in more than 100 nations, celebrating his vision of solidarity, his insistence that all faiths have something meaningful to contribute to building the beloved community, rather than building walls. 

“Where do we go from here, Spokane?  We must come together to continue teaching the values of nonviolence, unconditional love, tolerance, forgiveness, unity and reconciliation which are so desperately needed to unify not only America but also our community,” Stephy said.

“We need to teach young people to fight evil and injustice, not people, and to ask themselves, what is the most loving way I can resolve conflict?” she said.

“We must help them remember Dr. King as a man who endured harassment, threats, beatings and bombing, who went to jail 29 times to achieve freedom for others, and who knew he would pay the ultimate price for his leadership, but in spite of that kept marching, protesting and organizing,” she said.

“Where do we go from here, Spokane?” she asked again.

She calls on young people to learn from the elders, learn from both their mistakes and their visions.

“As we pass the baton on, we hope youth will run with the dream, run with the vision to make a difference in the lives of others, to make it your personal commitment to serve humanity with the spirit of unconditional love, which was Dr. King’s greatest strength, which empowered all the great victories of his leadership,” Stephy said.

With unconditional love, she believes people today can achieve the beloved community of Dr. King’s dream.

“There is no place for chaos, injustice, racism or discrimination in the community,” she asserted.  “Each person has the right to sit at the table and be heard. We should make a commitment to serve humanity, promote Dr. King’s teachings and carry forward his legacy into the 21st century. 

“I’m 63. Some of us do not have another 50 years on earth to wait for change.  Change needs to be now!” Stephy said.

In closing, she said, “We need to work for a cause, and not for applause, live life to express and not to impress.  We shouldn’t strive to make our presence noticed, just to make our absence felt.”

“Where do we go from here?  Fifty years is too long.  The time is now!” she said.

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