Great leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, hospital view Martin Luther King, seek Jr, erectile Nelson Mandela, Medgar Evers and Malcolm X all made tremendous sacrifices towards the cause of gaining justice and equality for all people regardless of their class, race, ethnicity or nationality.
There has always been a resistance to injustice, inequality and oppression. All of the above mentioned leaders were individually responsible for massive movements engaging hundreds of thousands of people from diverse backgrounds, principles, religions, economic position and power. Each one of them made tremendous sacrifices of life and liberty to fight for the greater good. All but one was tragically murdered for speaking truth to power and refusing to be intimidated by its unyielding grip on the anemic consciousness of humanity. They ultimately gave all they had and left others to carry forth the vision, the dream, and the struggle so that their lives would not have been given in vain. These and many others like them have been the mighty pillars in the struggle for equality and justice for all human beings at great sacrifice to themselves, their loved ones and the communities they left behind. And yet here we stand at the crossroads of the continuing struggle for liberty, freedom, equality and justice and we shirk away from even the smallest of sacrifice.
In today’s struggle, people have to be reminded the struggle is ongoing because they have become complacent, compliant and comfortable in the “small” victories won and forget there is a much bigger picture than the one they are looking at. They don’t recognize that holding your ground does not move you forward in the struggle for freedom and justice, but rather causes you to lose the very ground you gained as the hard fought battles of the past begin to erode beneath your sedentary feet, so comfortable in standing still or settling for what you have that you have no idea of the erosion that is taking place on the very ground on which you stand. Case in point: the Voting Rights Act, section 4; the ongoing struggle across the nation for Reproductive Rights, including the choice to have a safe and legal abortion; and the continued erosion of Workers Rights nationwide. All of these battles have been fought and won many decades ago, and yet here we are on the precipice of losing them and returning to an era when unfair and unequal requirements (poll taxes) were imposed to keep black and brown people from exercising their Constitutional Right to VOTE; when women had to get “back-alley” abortions, suffer unwanted pregnancies and die because of inadequate health care access; and laborers had no recourse but to work for low wages and substandard conditions without the ability to organize or challenge their employers for fear of retribution.
Those were the “good old days” that the foot soldiers in the “struggle” fought, bled and died to overcome. Those are the days we are destined to revisit if we do not begin to recognize the sacrifices that have been made for us. The sacrifices that are worth the cost…a price we must now pay not only for ourselves, but also for those who will come after us. As Memphis, a character in August Wilson’s play Two Trains Running, says, “Freedom is heavy. You have to put your shoulder to freedom and hope that your back holds out.”
Artistic Director and Founder
The Conciliation Project
Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University