Credit: Caselove Productions
Credit: Caselove Productions
Atlanta’s division is a disheartening dichotomy of institutions against individuals and corporations against communities. Reasoned discourse for the collective good is hampered by insidious thirsts for power, control and unilateral triumph. We are caught in a spiral of chaos, confusion and confrontation, with a tale of two cities at odds about what ails us and what remedies will cure us.
The reality is, we have yet to create models where “police reform” is not simply a recommitment to the status quo in another form. Criminal justice system transformation and improving public safety must coexist, especially during a time marked by rising crime.
My father, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” As a nation, we have never truly prioritized justice. In its place, we have what my father described as “confused commitments” more “concerned with the size, power and wealth of our society” than creating a just society. He said, “Social tensions will grow and the recurring turbulence in the streets will persist despite disapproval or repressive action.” And here we are in a cacophony of chaos growing louder by the day; with attempts at constructive dialogue seen by some as performative and too little, too late.
Atlanta must not become too burdened to heal; a city once too busy to hate morphed into one too busy to love.
In his last book, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?,” my father quoted Cicero, “Freedom is participation in power.” Those opposing the facility, its location and forest destruction lack power participation. Our city, the corporations and institutions and those with more resources have power participation, but marginalized communities experiencing the trauma of racism, police brutality and economic and environmental disparities do not.
It is time to address these concerns bravely to ensure all members of our community have an equitable voice in decision-making. True power is magnified when shared, not diminished. Will we listen and act?
Community activists, there is power in protest, and we thank those who do so peacefully. Nonviolent protests are the most potent, constructive weapon people have had when they are denied power to participate.
Unfortunately, at times, peaceful protests are infiltrated with anarchy that leads to physical violence and the destruction of property. It is imperative that we reject physical retaliation and center our actions in nonviolence as we exercise our power to participate.
Corporate leaders, I urge you to reconcile the racial equity and social justice pledges made during the 2020 uprisings and beyond to ensure your financial contributions are stewarded in a way consistent with those commitments. The world is watching.
City officials, I urge you to ensure communities impacted by your actions are properly consulted in a timely, substantive and transparent manner prior to the point of decision. I urge you to rapidly expand your efforts in police and justice reform and a new approach to holistic community safety and wellness that engenders trust and confidence in police and policymakers. I also urge you to revisit the programming and design of the training center and to identify a more suitable location. Ignoring the calls of the community will only multiply the cries.
The city of Atlanta has an opportunity to rise to higher ground in this hour of crisis with vision, integrity and boldness to become a model for peacemaking in America. I look forward to working with you to create a just, humane, equitable and peaceful Atlanta – The Beloved Community.
If we would but do it.
Rev. Dr. Bernice A. King is CEO of The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change Inc.