Over the next few days the media will be flooded with excerpts of Dr. King’s speeches and letters. One of my favorites is the Letter from Birmingham Jail written on April 16, 1963 where Dr. King defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism. In one of the most profound points, King writes:
For years now I have heard the words “Wait!..The “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.”… I guess it is easy for those who have felt the stinging facts of segregation to say, “Wait.”…when your first name becomes “nigger” and your middle name becomes “boy” (however hold you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and when your wife and mother are never given the respect title of “Mrs.”…when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleekness of corroding despair.
Just eight months prior to Dr. King’s speech Verbum Dei opened its doors. Verbum Dei, an educational institution founded on the Word of God, consisted of faculty members, parents, and students that refused to wait. They refused to wait for a society to become ready for their students- scholars and scholar-athletes ready for college success. They refused to wait for educational research to recognize the importance of student-teacher relationships and high expectations- they had already done that.
And so it is with us, Verbum Dei. We find ourselves in similar times as Dr. King. Human dignity is perceived as something that must be earned not something that is innate to one’s human-ness. Verbum Dei’s nonviolent strategy to racism (or any other -ism that denies human dignity) is education and inspiration. Verbum Dei educates and inspires young men of color in Watts and the surrounding cities. We refuse to wait for permission. We refuse to wait until it is trending. We refuse to wait for the perfect conditions. We refuse to wait for city or government leaders to lead the way. Verbum Dei knows WE are the ones we’ve been waiting for.