Finding An Ally Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we’re going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968
This seems like a good time to confess that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired me to stick with anti-violence work being that January featured both the celebration of his birthday and the release of a major motion picture highlighting his work. When I was first introduced to working against intimate violence against women, I quickly realized that I had few direct peers that I could go to for common ground as an African-American male. Thus, I frequently turned to symbolic allies – women and men who may or may not share my individual politics but who provided the spiritual grounds to keep with my chosen cause.
The allies that I came up with included Frederick Douglass (who often spoke of rape in recounting the horrors of slavery) and President Barack Obama (whose administration houses the One in Three initiative) but Dr. King was probably the first that I found. I would read quotes from him such as that above and consider him an ally. He wasn’t speaking directly to anti-sexual violence work but he provided an ideological framework for the fight. In the quote above, I find moral and historical urgency as to why men need to step up and combat the epidemic of sexual violence in America. I may not have always had many peers that identified with my work; but I always had allies and Dr. King was among the first.