Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day in the United States. It is a holiday that commemorates Dr. King’s life and work. He lead a movement for racial justice and equality, and embraced nonviolent action as a powerful revolutionary force for social change. He employed Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence as the means to confront racist laws and discrimination in America. His work made a significant contribution to President Lyndon Johnson signing into law the historic Civil Rights Act, and he was the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Dr. King’s legacy continues to inspire us to live in accordance with our highest values of love, tolerance, and cooperation. There is still much more to be done to create a society in which human rights are equal independent of skin color, gender, sexual orientation, gender identification, economic status and religious affiliation. Coretta Scott King states in, The Meaning of the King Holiday, “We are called on this holiday, not merely to honor, but to celebrate the values of equality, tolerance and interracial sister and brotherhood he so compellingly expressed in his great dream for America.”
Dr. King’s was deeply inspired by Gandhi’s success with nonviolent social change, and traveled to India to learn more about Gandhi’s teachings. While there, King in a radio address stated, ‘‘since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.” Gandhi understood nonviolence from its Sanskrit root “Ahimsa”, and he expanded the philosophy of nonviolence from the individual level to the societal level. His grandson, Arun Gandhi, shares in an interview; “He (Gandhi) said ahimsa means love. Because if you have love towards somebody, and you respect that person, then you are not going to do any harm to that person.”
As the upcoming inauguration of President-Elect Trump draws close, the examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. point the way forward to heal the division and anger that are present on both sides of the political divide. I am clear that judgment and animosity only serve to increase suffering and do not offer solutions on how to move forward. Instead, as Martin Luther King, Jr., clearly expressed:
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
There will likely be hundreds of thousands of people participating in the Women’s March on Washington the day after the Presidential inaguration. According to the Guardian newspaper, there will be approximately two hundred progressive groups representing a variety of issues such as the environment, legal abortion, prisoners’ rights, voting rights, a free press, affordable healthcare, gun safety, racial and gender equality, and a higher minimum wage. There will also be another three hundred simultaneous local marches across all fifty states, and support marches in another thirty countries.
In my local city, the LA Women’s March website states it “is open to everyone who stands for human rights, civil liberties, tolerance of diversity, and compassion for our shared humanity.”
Their mission statement is:
We stand together in solidarity for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country. In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us. We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.
In the spirit of nonviolence, this is not a protest. The Women’s March is a celebration of human rights.
Today, let us remember the powerful example of Martin Luther King, Jr. — his strength, his courage, his compassion, his selfless service — as we move forward with bringing more love, understanding, and peace into this country and onto this planet.
We can raise our voices for what we believe and stand for the principles of justice and love internally and externally. I am grateful for the blessing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership, and his demonstration of how change is possible even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. We can be the change we want to see.
Rohini Ross is a psychotherapist, a leadership consultant, and an executive coach. She helps individuals, couples, and professionals connect more fully with their true nature so they can experience greater levels of wellbeing, resiliency, and success. You can find out more about Rohini’s work on her website, rohiniross.com.