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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Reflecting on MLK’s Use  of Resilience as a Tool for Creating Racial Change

Wilburn Hayden. 

Most commonly, resilience is about  having the ability to overcome risks and being able to bounce back.  There are three presumptions that defines resilience: (1) it can be acquire by anyone if they follow a prescribed course of action; (2) equality exists among all individuals and communities; and (3) thus, anyone can learn to cope and become resilient.  These assumptions enable us to conclude that individuals living in marginalized or racialized communities, and facing social barriers should be able to foster resilience just as easily as people who live in privilege communities.
Understanding resilience in this way places responsibility on the individual to overcome risks and disadvantages in spite of societal barriers. King’s work would have us to reflect deeper today and think differently about resilience. His message about justice, equity, and compassion in human relations, ask us to include an understanding beyond individual responsibilities and efforts.
King’s work asked us then, and now to think beyond seeing resilience as a tool in maintaining the status quo of blacks and others living within marginalized communities. He challenged us to an additional meaning that sees systemic inequalities of racism requiring social protest and nonviolence. He demonstrated a need to shift resilience away from individual change in order to address racial structural barriers. By re-conceptualizing resilience beyond the individual, he directed his actions toward creating racial change at societal level rather than at individual blacks living within marginalized racial segregated communities. King advocated for change in social arrangements, traditions, legislation, public accommodations, and commerce to affect structural inequality rather than placing blame and responsibility onto individuals.
 Having come of age as a black activist during the late sixties, I skipped past King’s Civil Rights struggle, going directly to the radical black struggle. Then, I had no time for King’s nonviolence protest. Many of us rejected King’s approached and advocated militant confrontation. Those of us in the black movement believed that white America would not change without our use of force.
We came to know that Hoover and the white establishment had us out gunned in the use of force, infiltration, and manipulation of public opinion. For example, during the radical black struggle not a single segregated white community experienced racial turmoil at the hands of black militants. Yet a prevailing message then, was white communities must be prepared for militant racial attacks.
In retrospect, the two approaches of King and militant blacks were closer to each other than any of us knew. Especially, in how our strategies related to resilience as a tool for creating racial change. I made the shift closer to King by continuing the struggle through direct action and confrontation within white spaces.

Exert from Sunday Service at Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Patricia Trudeau, Donovan Hayden & Wilburn Hayden. January 15, 2017 Martin Luther King: Resilience and His Message for Canada Then and Now. Toronto.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Book Camp snip

These folks working with community engagement started to share books and book lists with each other. Nice idea. Then I saw this mention:

For those with a Kindle, South is free to download and is one of the best books I have read about leadership and bravery. It also feels strangely relevant for the turbulent times we’re living in.
Wondering if anyone is sharing Wilburn's book in discussions in their communities? The book is about the South, but this is the deepest of the south. South is Ernest Shackleton's much praised report from his second expedition to the South Pole.