Reflecting on Dr. King, listening to pay tribute to his legacy

By Rev. Branden Polk

If you’ve attended service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, you can imagine how Dr. Martin Luther King’s words would have resounded in the nave and over each of the pews. He served as a pastor there until his untimely death, but in that capacity, dedicated much time to preaching, articulating a real, but hopeful message of healing for the country.

He not only left behind his words but also the important value of listening.

Oxford scholar, Muslim reformer, and Stand Together community partner Irshad Manji spoke recently at Ebenezer and reflected on what she learned from Dr. King’s brand of activism.

“Resist humiliating those who disagree with you. Instead? Listen to them. Engage, ask questions, and listen further. And here’s why. Seeking to crush your skeptics and your doubters and your detractors only makes them more defensive. Which means your view will not be heard by them. [Listening is] non-violence. That’s love.”

She charges us to not just commemorate Dr. King. But to do as he did. Every day.

It takes courage to listen, to understand, even to empathize. Those themes imbue Manji’s work and the work of many of our community’s partners.

I’ve experienced it in the programs of Interfaith Youth Corps, and their work bringing together countless numbers of college students to connect across lines of difference. THOUSANDS of Americans have gathered to seek understanding about each other through the work of Braver Angels.

These are just some of our partners that model the key principle of courage that is essential to bridging divides and promoting racial healing today. By exercising the courage to listen, we believe that movements like Heal America are showing a better way to combat racial injustice, believing that all people are capable of redemption and worthy of respect, belonging, and love. You can see this type of listening in action with our Heal America changemakers on episode 1 of “Breaking Bread.”

America needs to keep talking and listening. Monday night, we will continue this conversation about listening as a pathway to radical empathy that can heal the country’s racial divisions. Criminal justice reformer @leonfordspeaks and police officer Ryan Tillman and I will engage in a conversation at 8:30pm EST on Instagram Live @joinhealamerica.

You won’t want to miss this raw conversation about how we move forward as a country and empower communities across America to love and support one another.

📺Watch on Instagram Live at: @joinhealamerica