During a remembrance service two years after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, the Rev. Gardner Taylor of Brooklyn, N.Y. said that it would take at least 50 years to begin to see the true impact that King’s work would have upon America.
Interestingly, on Aug, 16, 50 years will have come and gone since King asked, at a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference: “Where do we go from here? Chaos or community?”
Sadly, King’s questions in 1967 must be asked anew in 2017.
In fact, on Aug. 12, The People’s Campaign, a social-justice organization that engages in political action, will be hosting “The Chaos or Community? Conference” in an attempt to shape and communicate a contemporary response.
The exits and replacements of Michael Flynn, James Comey, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Anthony Scaramucci and several others have made the White House resemble a game of musical chairs, leaving us to wonder how much fire is blazing in the midst of so much smoke.
Meanwhile, the endless assaults on the right to affordable health-care access, at the state and national levels, place the lives of 500,000 Kentuckians and millions of Americans in unnecessary jeopardy.
In the spring, Gov. Matt Bevin took full advantage of his party’s newfound majority in both chambers of the General Assembly and signed charter school legislation into law, leaving school districts ill-equipped to project enrollment for the 2018-2019 school year, and rendering the community very limited ability to hold a new class of publicly funded schools accountable.
So, the chaos that comes from unknowns and unnecessary pitfalls is looming, at a time when roughly 40 percent of Fayette County Public School students are graduating neither college nor career ready.
Additionally, the governor may call a special session in the weeks to come in order to address state pension shortfalls and the overhaul of an ineffective tax code.
Unfortunately, for current and future state employees, it appears that Bevin may be willing to cut their retirement benefits rather than protecting them. And his statements about his tax plan suggest that he’s willing to raise taxes on consumers in order to protect tax credits and loopholes for corporations.
And one of the more telling indications of how far we have to go can be found right in the Capitol Rotunda. Rather than addressing the indignity that the descendants of slaves face every time we enter the hallowed halls at the very center of state government, the Historic Properties Advisory Commission seems determined to “educate” us on why the statue of a racist traitor belongs there.
The Declaration of Independence speaks of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But unemployment, heroin, opioids and gun violence have rendered the ability to thrive nearly impossible in communities where virtually everyone is struggling to do what’s necessary to survive.
Finally, as a Baptist minister, I found it very disturbing when I read this summer that a resolution that condemned white supremacy caused chaos at the Southern Baptist Convention.
So, clearly we are located in the heart of a chaos riddled reality. Yet, our only option, if we want our society to survive and thrive beyond our time, is to chart our course toward community.
One of the keys to reaching that collective destination is to reclaim the premise that the truth can still be found. And one of those truths that we have to find and swiftly act upon is that we can all do better when we work together.
The Rev. L. Clark Williams is president and chairman of The People’s Campaign and director of ministry at Shiloh Baptist Church in Lexington. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.