A Day On

I often hear the observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday referred to as being a day on and not a day off. I hope you found some time to celebrate, reflect, and observe the day in ways that were meaningful to you.

I spent the morning of Martin Luther King Day facilitating a workshop on microaggressions with about 90 people. Traveling through the four corners; a time when we experienced a microaggression, when we committed one, when we witnessed something but didn’t intervene, and when we witnessed something, but did intervene is a good way to build a deeper sense of connection and trust among participants. It also serves as a definite reminder that we are all implicated somehow in the web of power, privilege, and oppression.

The group consisted of college students, community members, teachers, and administrators who brought with them all of the history and context of their experiences within their social identities. Many participants stayed after to talk, which was great because some of them were also meeting for the first time.

Every time I notice this it reminds me the human need for genuine connection; to be understood and recognized in a culture that rewards superficiality, and encourages in-authenticity.

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

There’s room for us all in this work, and if we can learn ways to recognize how and when we are contributing to the problems that exist, we can work to learn ways to interrupt the flow of harmful thoughts, ideologies and behaviors and make room for new ways of thinking and being that are more humane to others.

Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated.

–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Everybody can be great, it’s just a matter of discovering the gifts we bring and how we can best use those gifts to be of service. If you’re unsure of what some of your gifts are, completing your personal SWOT analysis might provide some additional clarity.

For me, education is a key that can unlock many doors. One of the ways I serve is through teaching and learning better ways to communicate; through co-creating experiential opportunities that cause enough tension to increase awareness and inspire action. Grateful for the historical sacrifices that have been made, while recognizing the work that is still left to be done, I feel fortunate to be able to do work that is challenging, yet restorative.


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones, MSW, LLMSW

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I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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3 Responses

  1. tunisiajolyn84 says:

    I love that you are doing this work. Very critical in order to move forward in unity and not fall victim to divide and conquer. I especially love this: “Everybody can be great, it’s just a matter of discovering the gifts we bring and how we can best use those gifts to be of service.”

    • It’s true! Dr. King also said that “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

      I think there exists an individual and societal tendency to put people and their contributions on a pedestal in ways that make taking action seem inaccessible to people. I try to resist that immobilizing notion by believing, and encouraging others to think about the fact that, although they may look different for us all, we each have something we can do to bring about positive change.

      • tunisiajolyn84 says:

        Very true and everyone doesn’t have to be a soldier at the frontline. We can all be active for change in whatever ways is comfortable for us and also most effective, which is usually on a local community level. It takes many little ripples to make great waves of change.

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