The Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City held a Mass Celebration to honor MLK Day, and focused its prolific annual Mass Celebration and Community Forum on Reparations for Black Kansas Citians.
The theme was “Repairers of the Breach” a biblical referent applied to the nation’s moral obligation to take intentional, comprehensive, and strategic efforts to repair the damage Black descendants of chattel enslavement in America have endured and still endure.
During the ceremony, Ryan Sorrell, Founder & Executive Editor of The Defender, was one of two award recipients of the night, and received the honorable Community Service Award.
Read a transcript of the acceptance speech below;
This is an extraordinary event
I want to salute those who had the vision and determination to bring us together. And I hope that we can empower and enable and enoble each other, because we live in catastrophic times and we need courage.
When we talk about moral courage and the movement being a marathon not a sprint, I want to echo the people who spoke before me and pay homage to some of the long distance runners we are blessed to have in our presence today, I’m talking about the SCLC, the Reale Justice Network, the Urban League, Operation Liberation, the National Black United Front, the Urban Summit, these freedom fighters been at it for a long time y’all!
And I know we are here to talk about our Revolutionary Ancestor, Dr. King, but in parallel to that, I think it’s absolutely necessary that we contextualize him as a product of the Black Radical Tradition, and recognize his as the anticapitalist, socialist, radical, anti-imperialist, that he was, not, the whitewashed, deodorized, commodified, watered down- moderate characterature that many white folks or Black bougie folks want us to believe he was.
We must reject any attempts to contort, bastardize and weaponize Dr. King’s legacy, and recognize them for what they are; strategic attempts to silence the righteous militancy and rage of Black people and especially of Black youth.
Dr. King and the leaders he organized with, did not recognize nonviolence as a dogmatic ideology that must be blindly adhered to, he recognized it as a practical organizing strategy.
Let me say that one more time just in case it went over anyone’s head.
In the same way that Huey Newton or Chairman Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party recognized it would be suicide to attempt to go head to head militarily against the US Military or police systems. That’s why Chairman Fred Hampton famously said we don’t fight fire with fire we fight fire with water. We don’t fight capitalism with Black capitalism we fight it with socialism.
This is the same perspective Dr. King was coming from, he said we don’t fight fascist white supremacist violence with more violence, we fight it by using nonviolence as one of many Direct Action Strategies to expose white supremacy’s animalistic viciousness to the world.
We fight it by employing radical love for our people and by creating new systems and infrastructure in our communities so we don’t have to rely on people and systems that were built intentionally to enslave, exploit and flat out kill us.
Dr. King provided us with moral, spiritual and political guidance, his life was an embodiment of what a revolutionary love for The People looks like.
He had the courage to bear witness to the truth, which we know the truth to be the condition of allowing suffering to speak.
Dr. King’s commitment to truth and justice was also expressed in his vitally important but lesser known speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence”. In that speech he strongly speaks out against the US War in Vietnam.
This incredibly unpopular and dangerous position he took at the time displayed his commitment to truth no matter the consequences, and is a lesson that all of us who support liberation and freedom for our people must follow.
Dr. King was greatly excoriated for that speech. Not only by those in government such as President Lyndon Johnson, but also by his colleagues in the civil rights movement. They felt that his path was civil rights, not American foreign policy. The major civil rights leaders felt that the position taken by Dr. King on the war would bring harm to the struggle for civil rights. Dr. King agreed that the speech would bring condemnation, but he stated in the speech that his conscience left him no other choice than to be critical of a war that brought not only devastation to the Vietnamese people, but to the poor people of this country because of the tremendous diversion of resources that were being invested in the war and not at home.
This is again a demonstration of his moral and political leadership.
What I would argue is equally important however was his ability to communicate a Black Radical Imagination, as he did in his I Have A Dream Speech.
The Speech was so powerful not because it was some moderate milk toast unity rhetoric, but because it provided a common vision, and we know that the scripture says that without a Common vision The People perish.
We must understand that he dedicated his life to manifest a world that did not yet exist, and which many people ever doubted could.
So I think when we hear young people especially talk about things like Prison and Police Abolition, or other radical ideas, rather than dismissing them as naive, we should understand these visions as necessary continuations of our people’s ability to imagine and manifest that which does not yet exist — What womanist theologian and scholar Monica Coleman, or Dr. James Cone as well as our African Ancestors call making a way out of no way.
I am immensely grateful to be recognized among such towering figures, and even more grateful and optimistic to see all of you here and to know what our convening here represents.