“The curse of poverty has no justification in our age.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King
Yet poverty remains. It pervades with almost 20 percent of
Californians living in poverty – that is roughly eight million of
our brothers and sisters. While my generation and the
preceding one lived through the turbulent changes in the 60’s and
70’s and were privileged to hear Dr. King’s messages, we are all
to some extent children of King’s movement.
Whether you agree with his messages or not, his impact on society
has reached down through the generations to change the
expectations of the past for a more hopeful future. His
commitment to progressions of human rights have changed not just
our country, but countries across the world.
But my question today is how have we, these children of King,
honored his legacy? He demanded that we see our fellow
human for their worth and honor their full humanity. In the
work that I do as this means implementing programs that recognize
the right to self-determination and abilities of the people we
serve. It means moving away from the paternalistic, “we know
what’s best for you,” mode of operation. When we in the nonprofit
space intentionally work in a way that values self-determination,
we will make more progress in eradicating what King referred to
as the curse of poverty.
Change is hard. As nonprofits, we have operated in the same way
for a long time—building programs and hoping people will come.
Creating such well-intentioned initiatives, do not harness an
individual’s power, but rather serve to keep them in a place of
reliance. As children of King, it’s time for us to move away from
simply spouting King’s inspirational messages. It is now time to
move into action that honors his legacy.