As we head into Martin Luther King, Jr., weekend, I have been thinking about the man and, more broadly, the movement this holiday seeks to recognize. Whenever I think about the Civil Rights Movement, I find myself oscillating between the macro, “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” perspective that encapsulates the struggles humanity faces as a whole, and the stories that helped define the movement and highlight injustices.
One of the stories that comes to mind pertains to the four African American college students in North Carolina known as the “Greensboro Four.” One day in early 1960, these students decided to walk down to a local diner and perform the simple act of ordering a cup of coffee. They waited all day without ever receiving service. Long story short, over the course of the next few weeks and months, this simple act inspired sit-ins across North Carolina and several other southern states, solidifying these actions as highly effective forms of peaceful protest across much of the south that culminated in desegregation.
Almost sixty years after the sit-in by the Greensboro Four, it’s important to reflect on what it means to have equal rights in today’s society. At City Fruit, we believe everyone should have ready access to fresh, nutritious food. In the State of Washington, almost 15 percent of households report being “food insecure,” and 1 in 6 people rely on SNAP. While the barriers today may be different, those who lack the means to access the food they need still suffer needlessly.
Over the course of this weekend, I will think about what Dr. King’s words and deeds mean to me personally. I will reflect about what it means to be a good citizen, and how I should show support and solidarity with fellow human beings struggling in ways I can hardly begin to fathom. It’s easy to get too muddled in the abstract and forget that small, simple acts of kindness are what really make profound changes. By picking apples from a tree, I can ensure that hundreds of kids and families can count on a healthy snack each week. I’m thankful that my job at City Fruit allows me to spend time trying to do good for my fellow community members in Seattle, and to all of City Fruit’s supporters who make our work possible.
There is still much to be done to address inequalities in our society. As I think about my roles and responsibilities not just at City Fruit, but in life, I will remember the words of the man whose life we honor during this time every year. I think you’ll agree Dr. King’s words resonate now as much as they did 40 years ago:
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels inevitably. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle: the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
Luke Jesperson is City Fruit’s Harvest and Community Outreach Manager.