This past MLK birthday celebration time I attended a showing of a documentary film of the civil rights’ movement in St. Augustine, Florida in 1963-1964. I had been arrested there with King, and the filmmaker invited me to assist with the question and answer portion of the event.
The film was shown at Green River Community College to about 100 students. The audience was very engaged with the film, the stories and us. The last question came from a young woman in the front row.
“How should we prepare for leadership as activists?” Unprepared for this particular question and with only minutes remaining, I offered up, “We need to question all our beliefs since we are programmed by our parents, teachers and the cultural propaganda. We have to learn to think for ourselves, to imagine possibilities outside the box, and to listen to our intuition for what resonates as truth for each of us.”
I also mentioned the message from King, who had told us, “I am asking you to march and face the violence of the people in this community, but don’t go unless you know these people are your brothers and sisters. Don’t go unless you have love in your heart.” He taught us that it is the energy behind the action that really counts. I ended by saying I hoped we would all find our courage to speak up, step up and stand up for what is just for all people on the planet. Her question has stayed with me in the ensuing months. I will share here what I would have said had I more time.
Kathryn Fentress and her husband moved to Bellingham 20 years ago for the water, trees, fresh air and mountains. She is a psychologist in private practice and believes that spirit is everything. Living in harmony with nature reflects a reverence for life.