I had the ability to celebrate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a new way this year. The nonprofit I work for had their annual Day of Service event. Typically, I am in Boston for MLK weekend dressed up in costume, running around a hotel with some of the most interesting people I have ever met. This was the first time in 6 years I have not attended Arisia and I’m okay with that. Instead I helped move supplies and people in and out of LaSalette Shrine’s conference center so that we could host speaker Joel Christian Gill of Strange Fruit Comics, as well as a variety of artists who gave their time to show forms of expression to the community. The event went very well and I was even featured in The Sun Chronicle’s article.
I think one of the things I like the most about celebrating the life and the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King is the fact that it gives everyone the opportunity to discuss empathy. What does it mean? How do you exhibit empathy? The best way to explain it is through this video.
Empathy is not something everyone has but it’s important. Just see the definition.
1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this
Empathy is being able to relate to someone/something’s feelings. We at times may not be able to understand our own feelings, let alone be sensitive to someone else. But for those of you reading this, I believe you have the capacity for this. It can be as simple as taking a breath before you say something to someone else and really think about what they said. To immediately rebut whatever they just said with a similar experience of your own may not be right. You’re trying to relate to them through a comparable but is your experience comparable to theirs? Could you be making light of their feelings in that experience?
In regards to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I don’t just see him as a civil rights activist or a dreamer. I see him and his work as that of an empathetic person who’s encouraging others to have empathy as well. When we give ourselves the full ability to understand someone else’s feelings we realize that their feelings aren’t the important part of the exchange. Their feelings are just the method of communication and a reaction to that of a larger problem. It’s typical that people don’t react until they are directly effected by something. By having empathy for others, we are allowing ourselves to be directly effected by the same experiences as them. It is my hope that we would all take THAT, that important information, and do something about it. This is where the civil rights or human rights activism takes form. I don’t need to have an experience with racism to understand that it’s wrong and probably doesn’t feel good but when I empathize with a person in America who is not white, I am compelled to do everything in my power to make sure that I have no part in the hate. I am determined to fight against hate I encounter with more love and understanding than I can muster. This is where the term “bleeding heart liberal” comes from. I always thought it sounded negative, like a bad word. But after reflecting on my time as a social justice warrior (another hot word right now) and the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I can honestly say that I’m proud to have a heart, a big heart, bleeding for every single person I meet everyday and the future I dream for us all.
Happy Birthday Rev. Dr. King, Jr.