Reflections on MLK and his Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Post date: January 15, 2018 by Craig Vercruysse

With great wisdom well beyond his 34 years, Martin Luther King Jr. penned his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail in response to criticisms from 8 white clergy members in April 1963.  A couple months later the letter was published and I encourage you all to read it or any other works of MLK as we reflect on his life and legacy this day.


MLK wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all in-directly,” and it is a poignant reminder that our words and deeds have impact on others far more extensively than we often times are aware or acknowledge.


If he were still alive today, MLK would be 89 and undoubtedly would have extended his mission in the Civil Rights Movement to address other injustices in the world and most especially the injustices surfacing, with seemingly greater ferocity, in America today.


The injustices based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and socio-economics being brought to the surface of American society are deeply troubling and also afford us a great opportunity to learn and grow.  It is uncomfortable for many to speak out, however there are far fewer dark corners in the room where we, as individuals, can ignore the glow of injustice without compromising our morality. MLK would applaud this tension in each of us, because “tension … is necessary for growth,” he wrote.


MLK’s words, 50 years later, remind us to speak and act out our truth on a daily basis; upholding respect and dignity for all. These are values we hold dearly as a team, yet MLK might challenge us to go deeper as he did in Letter from a Birmingham Jail, when he questioned the recipients of the letter, ”So the question is not whether we will be extremists but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”


A wonderful question to ponder – what kind of extremist will you be?


Happy 89th birthday, MLK!