Everybody Can Serve:
What MLK Can Teach Us About Grassroots Organization
By Sonja Morin, Communications Intern
Early this month, the Supreme Court's crucial decision in the June v. Russo case reaffirmed what has been echoed throughout the past several months: now is the paramount time in the fight against abortion and its ill consequences for women, the pre-born, and society as a whole. The fight is a worthy one, that when successful, will ensure the safety, protection, and empowerment of people everywhere. This fight can simultaneously seem imposing and insurmountable, with many not knowing where to start in their activism. How does one change hearts and culture when they are so firmly set on abortion?
In the past, we have reflected on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s activism. His example of compassion, firmness, and nonviolent demonstration led the civil rights movement by leaps and bounds during the twentieth century and beyond. Dr. King aimed to shape hearts and minds, because through it comes the change necessary to shift culture. Now, more than ever, does it seem appropriate to look back to his example, so we may move forward with daring for the sake of life and liberty. This and the following two posts will examine elements of his activism, to pinpoint strategies that are most helpful to the cause for life and women’s empowerment.
The first clear element of Dr. King’s activism was grassroots organization. This type of institution is one where its members are composed of the local community, and aim to improve the conditions of said community in regards to a particular issue. Individuals first come together out of shared concern over an issue. They decide to work together to actively spread the word about the issue, as well as promote and practice solutions for it. Individuals are united against issues that attack the humanity of a person or group, not because they are the same as the attacked persons, but because they share humanity. This shared status is reason enough to be angered by the injustice, and encourages the motivation to reverse the injustice.
Grassroots organization is incredibly effective by nature in its ability to identify and solve local issues. Dr. King worked within the communities to identify the issues applying to civil rights within each area, so that change could be demanded within those areas. In the same way, pro-life grassroots movements can find the issues within each community that need to be addressed through action or help. For example, if there is an area lacking resources for women facing unexpected pregnancies, resources could be pooled to ensure that these women feel secure and supported in their decision to choose life. If there is a law in a city that makes abortion even more unsafe than it already is, the community within that city can call for it to be repealed.
Grassroots organization also encourages the changing of hearts and minds like no other form of movement. Discrimination is the result of disordered, prejudiced thinking, which breaks relationships between people. Grassroots movements are based in communities, which are uniting forces. They rely on actions between persons, rather than large entities against each other. This interpersonal nature of their activism appeals directly to the heart. The community is able to witness the positive change the organization accomplishes, as well as witness the respect the organization gives to the dehumanized. Eventually, these actions will move the community to accept these dehumanized persons as the organization has. The impact of the grassroots movement grows, not because of large actions, but rather because of interpersonal foundation and efforts.
It is not to say that top-down organizations, such as political parties, cannot create or implement change. However, especially in situations where discrimination and dehumanization are involved, it is all too easy for such groups to generalize the situation. This generalization not only leads to incomplete solutions, but also expediencies that do not solve the root issues. Grassroots movements respond to these flaws by speaking to individual and smaller-community needs, thus allowing their solutions to work through and with people on an ever-growing scale. With each person’s contribution comes a newer and more diverse understanding of the situation, as well as a better way to help.
Dr. King’s utilization of grassroots organization caused the civil rights movement to reach countless hearts throughout the United States, and help improve conditions for African Americans in all spheres of life. If we participate in pro-life grassroots movements, like our own MCFL, we are entering into the same kind of culture-shifting, interpersonal work that he and many movements before undertook. It is through this type of organization that will create positive change for the pre-born and women we strive to defend every single day.
For those interested in taking part in grassroots efforts in Massachusetts, join MCFL today! We are a MA-based grassroots organization with chapters in all parts of the state. Get in contact with your chapter's leader here: MCFL Chapter List
For those already part of MCFL: Consider your own activism efforts. How are you currently contributing to the cause? In what ways could you improve or grow your efforts?
But If Not
by Sonja Morin, Communications Intern
We find ourselves facing once again the most prevalent issue in American history up until now: human rights. A human being has the right to exist and live, no matter the circumstances in their lives, no matter the inherent elements of their identity, no matter the societal and cultural beliefs that are aimed towards them. A human being has a right to respect, not because of who they are or what they do, but because of what they are: humans endowed with dignity. A human being has the right to live free from violence. A human being has the right to fair treatment in a situation of legal intervention. These rights are among those most basic and inherent to our human identity.
Yet, time and again, they have come into question, not because they themselves have changed, but because human selfishness intervenes. Slavery was an effort aimed towards economic success, completely ignoring the dignity of Black people in exchange for desired personal advancement. Women were denied rights so that present leaders could retain their status. In the moment, we wish to serve ourselves, and often lose sight of what is right. This is where injustice shatters peace. Our American culture has ingrained values that attempt to protect rights, but our nation has certainly failed to carry those values out in different situations. We see it in the treatment of the pre-born, the elderly, the marginalized, the sick, and racial minorities, especially the Black community. The United States is wounded because of these injustices, sinking into a dark despair that would claim humans cannot rise above their sinful tendencies.
In the past few weeks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been looked to not only as a model of justice and respect, but of hope. People have sought out his words and shared them with others in an attempt to advocate for better conditions. This made me look to a sermon from 1967, entitled “But If Not”. In this sermon, Dr. King relates the biblical story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These three stood against the tyranny of the Babylonian ruler, refusing to worship an idol and thus violate their religious rights. They were thrown into a fiery furnace, but even then, they refused to deny their God. Miraculously, they were saved, and this event prompted the king to reverse the unjust law.
Dr. King masterfully uses the story of these three Hebrew men to demonstrate that injustice has always accompanied humanity. There have always been times of unjust persecution, when the rights of individuals were sacrificed on the altar of self-gratification. The utilization of people as a means to advance one’s own interests is a deplorable condition that humanity has struggled with for centuries, and continues to wrestle with as years pass. As a result of these corruptive actions giving way to each other, the issue of creating justice in an unjust world seems almost insurmountable to many.
However, the constancy of injustice has always been accompanied by the constancy of those who fought against it and for their fellow human beings, for a restoration of equity and peace. Those of us who suffer because of our age, because of our race or ethnicity, because of our physical or psychological abilities, or any other circumstances, are not alone. Those of us who fight to secure the rights of those cast off by society and culture are not alone. Behind us are thousands of years’ worth of individuals who stood up for the truth, even if it meant risking their lives.
What do these times mean to and for us? Dr. King’s sermon holds the answer: “You must love ultimately because it’s lovely to love. You must be just because it’s right to be just. You must be honest because it’s right to be honest.” As members of the pro-life movement, it is our chiefest duty to defend and celebrate human life from conception until natural death. We do so, not because it is convenient or easy, but because of our love for each other rising from our shared humanity.
As so many issues pertaining to life reach a boiling point - prominent among them racially-motivated discrimination and violence - we must work more persistently than ever to ensure that individuals are respected and treated with love. That love begins with us, in the way we interact with those around us. It begins with how we treat others online. It begins with how we respond to chaos - seeing it as an opportunity to care. It begins with refusing to transform deep wounds into political bullets. If there’s a time for standing up for those who are most vulnerable and marginalized in society, it is now. Raise your voices with Dr. King, with the Hebrews, with all those before us who stood for the truth. Let us work peacefully now for an end to discrimination and violence, to ensure that all people, who have been created equal, can live in the joy of that equality without fear.
Molders of Consensus
By Sonja Morin, MCFL Communications Intern
Last week, the United States honored and remembered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a brilliant and influential man who dedicated his life to restoring freedom and justice. He was instrumental in shifting the tide for the civil rights movement through the speeches and letters he wrote, as well as the demonstrations he helped lead. His work aided in the national efforts to end discrimination against African Americans, including the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The pro-life movement has continuously looked to Dr. King as a figure who not only emulated the qualities of a great leader, but also understood human dignity and liberty. Both the civil rights movement and the pro-life movement are connected through their effort to uphold human rights for all. Many of Dr. King’s speeches alluded to the same reasoning that the pro-life movement uses today in defense of the pre-born. His legacy in the pro-life movement has been prominently continued through the efforts of his niece, Dr. Alveda King.
It is fitting that the inaugural post of this column would coincide so closely to the day that is nationally dedicated to Dr. King. In reflecting on his work, surely we could discern some lessons that will be beneficial to our movement in the days and years to come.
This column will be dedicated to abortion and culture, and the ways in which they intersect. As a movement, we often express our total rejection of American culture, and what is produced from it. More than ever, the pro-choice movement has utilized culture and its byproducts to normalize abortion. They want to convince those who are conflicted about the issue that abortion is healthy, beneficial, and in many cases necessary for women. They posit that it is right to dehumanize the most vulnerable among us in the name of equality. Their work is certainly contributing to the transformation of our culture into a culture of death. Our repulsion in response to this is certainly reasonable.