"Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all of their scintillating beauty."
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail"
If you don't already have it in heavy rotation, I can't think of a better time to listen to Common's masterful album, Black America Again.
"Letter to the Free," the closing track featuring Bilal, talks about mass incarceration and was inspired by both Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Ava Duvernay’s documentary “13th.” Common wrote this track for the movie, but it was already a subject that was clearly heavy on his mind, and it’s a topic he returns to throughout the album.
The question he asks in this song—“Will the U.S. ever be us?”— followed by the conviction that freedom and justice will indeed come (“Lord willing!”) follow in the spirit of Dr. King’s sobering and powerful words from his 1963 letter to his "dear fellow Clergymen.”
This weekend, I’m traveling from Chicago to D.C. to proudly join a diverse group of Americans marching on Washington, D.C. in the Women’s March on Washington. The guiding vision of this Women’s March is the belief "that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights,” along with the belief that “Gender Justice is Racial Justice is Economic Justice.”
Like Dr. King, I believe that our liberation is bound in each other’s, and that “whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” So while it may be a “Women’s” March, I’m marching for the racial justice that heroes like Dr. King and John Lewis, and so many more brave men and women, risked their lives for— or as King put, “so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”
See you in that “not too distant tomorrow” where the “radiant stars of love and brotherhood” — and sisterhood — will shine.