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Being King-like

I have been thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King and his ministry more intently for the last few days. I have listened to some of his speeches and read some of his writings again. I have read some of what others have written about him. I am struck by the hope in his words and actions. I have wondered how he could be hopeful. Let me quickly say Dr. King was no starry-eyed optimist. He understood the resistance and he understood the difficulty of the work to be done. Dr. King was not naïve. He was sober minded.

But listen to his words. “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.” “You can kill the dreamer but you cannot kill the dream.”

Dr. King understood that his work could cost him his life but even as he looked his death in the eye, he remained hopeful. In some of his final public words Dr. King said, “Like anybody, I would like to have a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he has allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.”

One of the things I love most about Habitat is that I can be a part of fulfilling the hope of Dr. King. Habitat plays a small role in righting injustices of the many years past in regards to housing discrimination against African American people. African American families on average have 10% of the net worth of white American families. The largest reason for the disparity is homeownership. African Americans were prevented from owning homes for many, many years in America. Generational wealth was difficult and often impossible to develop. Habitat chips away that disparity when we offer homeownership opportunities to our families. 80% of those families are black.

10-20 families in homes a year and another 40-50 repair projects a year are a drop in the bucket to what needs to be done. But our drop in the bucket joins with many others and together we can begin to make significant impact on real problems of racial inequities.

It is not only in the fulfillment of our mission that we can impact the problems of racial inequity. The organization’s structure, systems and practices also can be a part of fulfilling the hope of Dr. King. Diverse and inclusive board structure, staff recruitment and practices, racially sensitive marketing materials and an inclusive organizational culture contribute to a more racially just world. Participating in conversations about issues of racial justice and speaking up when we see policies and practices that hurt people of color contribute to the development of a more just world. Being committed to learning and growing to become a more inclusive organization can be a candle in the darkness.

It is toward Dr. King’s dream that Habitat works. It is his hope that sustains us.