“Where do we go from here?”
In the year prior to his assassination, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King isolated himself in a house in Jamaica where he wrote what was to become his final book. The culmination of King’s thinking there ultimately became “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” In it he offers this stark warning: “Together we must learn to live together as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools.”
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Dr. King’s March on Washington on August 28, 2023 — and closing in on sixty years after King wrote those words — it is an aching American tragedy that we find ourselves where we are today – with issues of race, arguably, as emotional, divisive and consequential as in King’s time.
King’s words are eerily prophetic, as if he had been looking into a crystal ball and could predict our current inability to form community with anyone who isn’t just like us. Unimaginable in 1967, tectonic technological shifts in the way we communicate have enabled us to use our computers and smart phones to angrily move away from each other – settling into the feuding tribes that human beings, sadly, form far too naturally. In 2023, our failure to “live together as brothers” has gone to seed in what increasingly – almost by the day – feels like the chaos King had foreshadowed.
“I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you but I want you to know here tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”
But right beside his tragic premonition of our future is also his uncanny prescription of a path forward. To King the answer lays, at least in part, with community – the seemingly simple act of connecting with each other across our differences. And despite the daily sadnesses, we are buoyed when we see the large majority of Americans who find their north star in Dr. King’s hope for our future. As the tributes to the March on Washington pour in ahead of the anniversary, we hope you’ll take a moment to notice all the places (both expected and unexpected) that they come from. So many of us want to see his dream made manifest (more than we sometimes think), but our reach as its stewards, it would seem, tragically exceeds our grasp.
At the Village Square, we’ve long believed that the revival of American community across differences of opinion and demographics is ultimately the only thing that can save us. No matter how profound our disagreement runs, we’re still neighbors whose lives intersect. It is for that reason that we’re asking you to join us now (all the way until the end of 2024) in intentionally—with the required amount of determination and grit—reviving our community connectedness across all the beautiful diversity of color, creed and ideology that makes up Tallahassee, Florida.
We’re kicking it off with a film “Join or Die” at The Challenger Center on the weekend of the anniversary of Dr. King’s March. Then we’re asking you to hang out with people who aren’t just like you—doing things you love, learning new things, whatever. (We’ll help you find each other if you need a hand.) You can gather to talk about race—or not—just whatever you do, gather.
While writing this post, a quote by Chris Burkmenn popped up on my browser – apparently he’s a self-styled motivator of aspiring country music artists: “The death of a dream is the day that you stop believing in the work it takes to get there.”
On this anniversary, Reverend King is not here to do the work it takes to get there. That leaves us.
“Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools.” — The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.