Sometimes we are gifted with an invitation so bold and loving it rocks our tiny minds and hearts. That happened to me this week as I watched Ferguson, Faith and the Future of Democracy, a video recording of Rev. Osagyefo Sekou’s address to the Washington and Oregon chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
During the Q&A period, a young woman asks him, “How do we get people involved…in a movement rather than just showing up at an event?”
Rev. Sekou responds:
There were several thousand people involved in the Civil Rights movement but it weren’t like everybody. That’s one of the lies they tell…The Marxist formulation says that quality comes out of quantity and I’m not necessarily convinced of that. I’m not sure…just a few folk willing to risk all. And it gets contagious. If you got a few folks willing to take significant risks that might be enough to build it out…
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.” Margaret Mead said it, too. So why are most activists I know looking for bigger and bigger numbers? Why do we assume social change depends on the involvement of masses willing to Wake up! Show up! Act up! And if they don’t, we resent them or despise them. We talk about them as if they were morally inferior. (Okay. I. I do that.)
Rev. Sekou’s comment that change can happen despite small numbers was a welcome reminder.
But it was the thought that came next that really shook my heart:
Some folks just going to sleep walk. But we struggle for them, too. We struggle for those who shall not shed any blood, whose lives will have been comfortable even unto now. We struggle for them, too. ‘Cause it’s the right thing to do.
To struggle against oppression is one thing, but to struggle on behalf of the comfortable? Revolutionary. I didn’t even know we were allowed to do that. I have never interrogated the assumption that we are obliged to think ill of them, belittle them, carry grudges against them.
What a relief! Resentment and contempt are so burdensome. These feelings have robbed me of much joy over time and put a wall between me and so many, many people. They have kept my mind and my heart small and crabby. Rev. Sekou’s invitation into this unimagined open-heartedness and loving kindness thrills me.
As I reflect on that, another thought comes by extension: there must be those right now taking risks while I sleep walk through issues I know nothing about. The hope that they willingly do so on my behalf and without contempt is irresistible.
And so much gratitude!