‘Why Words Matter: From Dissent to Dialogue’

2019 MLK Commemoration Service:

“Why Words Matter: From Dissent to Dialogue”

“I believe in social dislocation and creative trouble.”

—-Bayard Rustin, Civil Rights organizer and close contemporary of Martin Luther King, Jr.

        In the grand historical arc of the human struggle for justice, we find ourselves observant of the cycle of destruction and creation. This is the “creative trouble” of which Rustin speaks, which was embodied in the work of those like Dr. King. In our moment, we are surrounded by words launched into the core of our society and threatening the parts of our world that are married to the marginalization of others. This dissension of injustice disturbs and, indeed, destroys. In these sometimes frightening moments, we must know what Rustin, Dr. King, and so many of us today understand: the truth destroys to usher in the possibilities of a liberated future. This knowledge means the subsequent dialogue will be grounded in this same truth. Our dialogue will be fertile soil for a world that welcomes and embraces those previously denied because we began building on an awareness of structural violence and systemic oppression. This is why words matter. This is why “creative trouble” is necessary—-because as we speak the liberating words and heed their clarion call, we hone ourselves into instruments capable of a harmony that does not request half the choir’s silence. Rebounding between the realms of destruction and creation, we find the conduit from dissent to dialogue, honoring every step of the process.