Monday, January 18, 2010

Tony's Blog: We have it in our power to begin the world over again

Dear Friends,

When I woke up this morning my heart was full. There is something in the air. It smells like optimism, sounds like enthusiasm and feels like love. It comes in the form of an outpouring of support for our dream of an Urban Oasis for teens in the heart of the city.

That feeling has since given way to deep reflection as I realize that this is the day that we celebrate the life of another man who had a dream: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visionary leader and advocate for human rights for all. Unfortunately we must also reflect upon his death in 1968 at the hands of those who felt that such a vision could be silenced. It cannot. His life was ended, but his voice lives on.

I call upon the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for guidance in our quest for cultural renewal. I call on his legacy to fuel our courage to check the ignorance of racism, born from hatred which in turn is born from fear. We need the memory of MLK to incite the promise of Obama that is threatened by incivility and the disingenuousness of political discourse. A political solution without a cultural shift will be short-lived. The very work that we do at Youth Mentoring Connection is aimed directly at such a shift. Our best hope is in understanding our interconnectedness, revisiting old wisdom, understanding new ways of connecting (social networking, media outreach, etc.) and practicing compassion toward our youth and their communities. We’ll have to use all these tools and our greatest levels of creativity.

Yet, as our name implies, it comes down to developing a culture of mentoring. It comes down to our ability to proliferate the number of adults who will approach our youth in the spirit of “Sawubona” (Zulu for “I see you”), to recognize the “gifts” they were each born into this world to share. Indeed to recognize that the most wounded of them carry deep medicine that we all need, and by helping them heal we learn to heal the entire culture.

Mentoring as practiced at YMC is a community endeavor rooted in the imagination of old wisdom. The word comes from Homer’s Odyssey and involves the healing of a culture wracked by war. “Mentor” becomes guide for the young prince Telemachus and inspires him to find his voice and go on the necessary journey into adulthood. The ultimate conclusion is that the gifts of the youth mingle with that of the elder, thus driving out the forces of fear. I believe that is our battle today. If we defeat fear, we can face ourselves, face our individual and collective wounds, and build the compassionate society that has always been the promise of America.

Thomas Paine wrote, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”

What an amazing thing, this human capacity to reinvent ourselves; to start anew. Let’s use the symbolism of a new year and the inspiration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to inspire us to move our society to where all peoples can finally say:

"Free at last, free at last.
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

yours in peace,


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