Returning from yet another soul-changing Jivamukti yoga class, I am left to follow the instructions of my teacher who tells us to treat tragedy as a celebration of the actions that can be taken. This she says in a musical voice after playing on her iPod the pragmatically gruff, inspirational, an booming voice of a man who changed many, the late Martin Luther King Jr. who came into this world a message of love, spirituality, and action 81 years ago today.
And here I sit at my dining room table, purposefully listening to Tracy Chapman talkin’ bout a revolution as she drives a fast car to liberation, wondering how to celebrate with words on a blog about Jewish feminism. The fact is, all movements are so interconnected, so deeply rooted to the same problem, so fixed to working towards the same solutions: peace and equality. Sometimes, we are so fixed on seeking out differences that we forget the multitude of similarities and I honestly echo the sentiments of Martin Luther King Jr. verbatim. I strive to possess in my actions the words spoken minutes before his death.
And these are the words I think of when I think of Jewish feminism, when I think of movements, and when I think of the man who risked his life for them:
…the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men [and women], in some strange way, are responding.
Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same: “We want to be free.”
And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men [and women] 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 [and women], for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.
So today, let us exist in action, in a state where we see what we can learn from someone whose legacy continues to show us that action is possible – in every movement, in Jewish feminist thought, and in understanding the meaning of equality.