Striving Toward Dr. King’s Beloved Community

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often spoke of the “Beloved Community.” As described by The King Center, the memorial resource center and institution founded by Coretta Scott King:

“Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”

Photo of Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington DC

This was not a vision of an idealistic utopia, but a very real future that lies within our grasp as humans, provided everyone believes in it. But belief alone won’t be enough to make it take shape—it will take the hard work, passion and dedication of every one of us to ground ourselves in truths, find our lane and get to work.

For this year’s Martin Luther King Day, we encouraged our Ketchum colleagues to spend time revisiting his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, which was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial nearly six decades ago. So much has changed during that time, and yet not nearly enough. While the racial reckoning we’re seeing unfold in America—addressing this country’s dark history of systemic racism, oppression and exclusion—is a wakeup call to some, many have been fighting for change long before last summer. In an effort to internalize Dr. King’s vision and spark action, we urged our colleagues, including those coordinating DE&I initiatives in our local offices, to think not only about how the past has led to the present, but about how we can move from the present to the future that King envisioned. So we asked the question: What is your vision and hope for the Beloved Community today?

The answers they provided filled me with gratitude to be working with such an honest, open and committed group of people, and hope for what we can build together—because it will take all of us. I hope they inspire you too.

Rayanne Zackery, San Francisco
My vision and hope for a Beloved Community is one where people are not dehumanized with words and actions. And those that do are held accountable—by each one of us. This topic was discussed on a recent Brene Brown “On My Mind” podcast about last week’s event at the US Capitol, which I recommend listening to. She states that dehumanization always starts with language, such as name calling, and we are all responsible for recognizing and stopping it. Such a simple yet powerful way we can each contribute to creating a more Beloved Community.

Greg Dauphin, Atlanta
My hope for a Beloved Community is one where all people feel safe. Last week I went for a walk (the never-ending quest to get those steps in), and noticed for the first time that the neighborhood next to mine had a street sign indicating access to a popular nature trail. So I strayed off my beaten path and walked in. As a Black man in this country today, there’s a certain level of awareness and attentiveness that you need to pay when you enter a new neighborhood, whether you’re laboring slowly on foot (again, getting those steps in!) or innocently driving around with a car full of kids to check out Christmas lights. “Will someone perceive my actions as suspicious? Will someone mistake me as a threat, thereby putting me in danger?” Still, I was feeling adventurous, so I ventured in—making sure I walked in that way that is hard to articulate but that many may understand: eyes up, balancing looking straight ahead with going out of my way to wave and smile if I passed a stranger… the “I-am-minding-my-own-business-but-I-am-not-a-threat” walk. I did not find the trailhead, but what I did find touched me so much more: lawn after lawn featuring “Black Lives Matter—We are Listening” signs. The signs that mean, “We don’t look the same, and our backgrounds are different, but I am here with you.” Suddenly, I felt safe. A tension I didn’t realize I was even carrying was gone. And I walked an extra mile because of it.

Giannina Seaman, New York
As an immigrant, my vision for the Beloved Community is for those in our society who have journeyed to come to this country, that they feel seen, valued, welcomed and supported in our communities.

Annayelli Flores, Chicago
My vision and the utmost hope for my Beloved Community is one where BIPOC and LGTBQIA folxs are treated fairly and equally, shown compassion and love, and know that they can trust and rely on allies to elevate their voices and give us more than just a seat at the table. As we continue the battle against discrimination and racism, it’s speeches like this—one that was given over 58 years ago (!!!)—that should light a fire under us to continue to dismantle the oppressive systems in place until we are all equal.\

Donny Nordlicht, New York
My vision and hope for the Beloved Community is to live in a world where there aren’t double standards on how American people and their bodies are policed.

Victor Arias, Los Angeles
Dr. King’s words are just as poignant and relevant today as they were in 1963. His call for unity and belief that everyone’s destiny is collectively tied together is something I hope we will realize in our lifetimes. That’s why it’s important to learn from and support our colleagues and friends in the Black community, LGBTQ communities, the Latino and immigrant communities, and all who want a more equal and just society.

Robin Garwood, Dallas
My vision and hope is seeing Martin Luther King’s dream become everyone’s dream and a reality for all of us on the planet. I’ve seen a lot of changes in my short time here, but we are nowhere near the point of where we need to be as a soul collective worldwide. It’s going to take a lot of love, compassion, education, empathy, communication and understanding. Stay grounded, hopeful, inspired and focused. Peace will prevail!

Robin Miklatek, New York
Okay, don’t laugh, but my hope for the Beloved Community is that we can achieve the future portrayed in “Star Trek”—where we all are valued for our skills and who we are as individuals. Where there is no need to worry about how you are going to be able to afford to live and raise your family because these things are taken care of by society as a matter of course. Where you contribute what you can to make the whole thing work—not because you must, but because your vocation and your avocation are one. In my Beloved Community, all are cared for with kindness and genuine concern for one’s well-being. Quality of life will be more important than mere subsistence. In my Beloved Community, we will look at this period of history and see it as extraordinarily sad, unenlightened and barbaric.

Kenya Alvarado, New York
My vision and hope for the Beloved Community is to live in a world where Black and Brown communities are no longer disproportionately hit by the systemic inequalities in our economic and health systems—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bryana Braxton, Washington, D.C.
Dr. King’s speech is so relevant to today. While we’ve made a lot of progress, many of the circumstances Dr. King talks about (i.e., police brutality against black people) still exist today. He notes how in some ways America has let Black people down with “insufficient funds” for opportunities. I hope for an America where Black and Brown people are valued and heard in every space (the workplace, the Capitol, etc.), given opportunities to grow with everyone else, and supported sufficiently.

Jeff Lewonczyk, New York
I think there’s a key to the Beloved Community in the work we do here every day: Communication. We can’t hope to move forward without being completely open and honest with each other—about our hopes and aspirations, about the steps needed to bring us there, and about the mistakes and missteps we make along the way. To me, the Beloved Community is a place of transparent communication where we all commit to the clarity of voice required to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves; to the careful listening required to hear the needs of all people with equal compassion; and to the responsibility of moving beyond dialogue into action, so we can always remain focused on doing what’s right.

As for me, one of my many hopes is that roles like mine will no longer be needed because DE&I would already be engrained in everyone’s DNA.

This holiday is an important day of service and reflection, but working towards achieving the Beloved Community is a year-round task. I hope you’ll take today to reflect on your strengths and how you can lend your talents to do the real work, if you aren’t already.