I am so grateful that my home, Tuolumne County, CA, has embraced its annual Martin Luther King Celebration for many years now. This year marked the 16th “Beloved Community Celebration,” in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. Nearly 400 people gathered to mark this important day in our history. What a great place to pollinate ideas and seek out honey for this hive, our home!
This year’s event was particularly poignant. A strong message of PEACE just eight days after the tragic shootings in Tucson, AZ (01/08/2011). Graceful music by Dennis Brown and Michelle Allison filled our hearts with soulful songs to heal our own wounds. Both of them have performed in our local theatres, Sierra Repertory Theatre and Stage 3 Theatre, and this audience welcomed them warmly. Sierra Waldorf School Choir lent their angelic beauty of nearly 40 young voices, led by Carol Weston Chrich, to comfort broken hearts. Two local high school girls read essays that they had written on the message of peace to call us to action. Each entreated us to care for everyone on this Earth, fulfilling needs of those who are oppressed, victimized and hungry. But it was dramaturge Rick Foster who grabbed us, jerked our heads around and told us to THINK in his compelling speech, based on MLK’s Anti-War message, written during the Vietnam Era. Foster wrote a response to Martin, modeled on the ideas of what MLK would be saying today. Rick ended by pleading with us all to recognize and call out those who assail our planet with acts of war on people, on wildlife, on our food sources, on our beautiful planet.
For two years I have had the honor of being invited to tell a story for this beloved community. In keeping with the theme of PEACE, I chose “The Search for the Truth,” a retelling of a story written by Danish writer Carl Ewald in 1905. At first I thought I’d just found a story about stories, but then it proved to have a much more sincere message. In the tale, the world has lost its sense of Truth, and goes in search. When 5 seekers return with 5 different approaches to truth, war wages until a group of children guide some to find a being, who holds their stories. In our community it is the division of ideas and beliefs that causes strife, distance and segregation of thought. I hope the story invited us all reconsider how our “locked in” thinking harms us and causes unnecessary bitterness and fear.
This year’s MLK celebration will be remembered. Can’t we quit our bickering and judgements long enough to take a look in the mirror and see who is standing behind us?Let’s not let political and ideological strife get in the way of loving each other and supporting each other.