succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Things I learned today

Attended the Martin Luther King Community Service Awards this afternoon. The keynote address was by Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr., who spoke in reference to King's last book, Where Do We Go from Here?: Chaos or Community? He referenced a 'thought exercise' available on the internet:

If we could shrink the earth's population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following:

There would be:

  • 57 Asians
  • 21 Europeans
  • 14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south
  • 8 Africans

  • 52 would be female
  • 48 would be male

  • 70 would be nonwhite
  • 30 would be white

  • 70 would be non-Christian
  • 30 would be Christian

  • 89 would be heterosexual
  • 11 would be homosexual

  • 6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth and all 6 would be from the U.S.A.
  • 80 would live in substandard housing
  • 70 would be unable to read
  • 50 would suffer from malnutrition
  • 1 would be near death; 1 would be near birth
  • 1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
  • 1 would own a computer

  • He then segued into his favorite quote from MLK:

    All people are interdependent…(W)hether we realize it or not, each of us lives eternally “in the red”. We are everlasting debtors to known and unknown men and women. When we arise in the morning, we go into the bathroom where we reach for a sponge which is provided for us by a Pacific Islander. We reach for soap that is created for us by a European. Then at the table we drink coffee which is provided for us by a South American, or tea by a Chinese or cocoa by a West African. Before we leave for our jobs we are already beholden to more than half of the world… All life is interrelated. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.

    He spoke of how those whom King referred to as 'transformed nonconformists' were the ones who inevitably enacted change; how we all have to be transformed nonconformists, how "[t]he hope of a secure and liveable world lies with the disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood."

    The first award recipient was Samuel T. Jackson, from The Economic Empowerment Initiative, Inc., a non-profit that provides financial literacy training. Jackson pointed out that the average college student graduates with over $20,000 in student loans and credit card debt. He asked, education may be a key that unlocks many doors, but what good does it do if you graduate without the skills to pay off your debt, avoid further credit card debt, and save and invest for the future? Most interestingly, graduates of the program are required to donate at least 10% of their total savings to a favorite charity and teach at least 50 hours of the financial literacy seminars to fellow students in local high schools.

    Voices of Inner Strength provided the musical intermission. And I'm never quite sure how to say this, always feel like I'm tiptoeing right on the edge of racism, but here goes - black people just have more fun worshipping. As Voices of Inner Strength got going there was a "go on girl!" from the crowd and several uh-huhs and amens and finally, "bring some church up in here!" I know I never enjoy church that much, and frankly, it's been a long time since I was that moved by much of anything religious.

    Another award recipient, Kimball Williams, used to be homeless. While still sleeping on benches in downtown Atlanta she volunteered at the Children's Shelter and Grady Memorial Hospital.

    All in all, a most inspiring afternoon.

    Followed by excellent conversation with a friend I see all too infrequently. So I leave you with a thought exercise from that conversation - freedom vs. justice. Not necessarily incompatible, nor mutally exclusive. But also certainly not the same thing. One school of philosophical thought believes that following Lincoln's presidency we moved from a period of freedom into a period of justice. Discuss.


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