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January 19, 2016 4

MLK & ADL: Because the Work is Not Yet Done

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

MLK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, we mark the 87th birth­day of Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. It also has been just over 180 days since I took the helm of the Anti-Defamation League(ADL), an orga­ni­za­tion founded more than 100 years ago in pur­suit of a dream that MLK labored to achieve his entire life: to fight big­otry and cre­ate a more just soci­ety. MLK and ADL shared a path that today seems per­haps even more inter­twined than ever before.

ADL was cre­ated in Octo­ber 1913, forged in the cru­cible of anti-Semitism. Our founders sought to rid the world of that age-old scourge even as they equally endeav­ored to drive an agenda of civil rights and social jus­tice. MLK was born 16 years later, and he matured into a civil rights leader in the 1950s, ded­i­cat­ing him­self to expos­ing the bru­tal­ity of the Jim Crow South and dis­man­tling its dis­crim­i­na­tory sys­tem of insti­tu­tion­al­ized racism and oppression.

ADL sup­ported MLK and the move­ment in its ear­li­est days. In 1954, we filed an ami­cus brief in the land­mark Brown v Board of Edu­ca­tion deci­sion. Ben Epstein, one of my pre­de­ces­sors who led ADL in the mid­dle of the 20th cen­tury, directed the orga­ni­za­tion to work hand in hand with African Amer­i­can lead­ers. MLK and Epstein stood together in Selma as Epstein recruited his entire exec­u­tive team to march across the Edmund Pet­tis Bridge for that sto­ried march in Feb­ru­ary 1965. And later,​ MLK and Epstein again stood side by side in the Rose Gar­den with Pres­i­dent John­son and Attor­ney Gen­eral Kennedy, cel­e­brat­ing the gains of the move­ment and cement­ing the Black-Jewish alliance.

In recent years, how­ever, many have lamented of the fray­ing of the alliance. Diver­gent inter­ests in the ensu­ing decades have alien­ated many in our com­mu­ni­ties. Some sim­ply have for­got­ten the his­tory. Oth­ers have cho­sen to sub­or­di­nate it to other more press­ing con­cerns. But the thing about his­tory is that it always remains, per­haps just under the sur­face, but it still endures.

In my role as CEO of ADL, I have sought to re-energize that his­tory. Just last month, I led my first “lead­er­ship retreat,” bring­ing together my exec­u­tive team of pro­fes­sion­als and lay lead­ers. Yet, rather than hun­ker down near our head­quar­ters in Man­hat­tan, I opted to visit the Amer­i­can South so we could exam­ine the legacy of the alliance that defined the Amer­i­can Civil Rights move­ment and reflect on our part in it.

We started in Atlanta at Ebenezer Bap­tist Church, not only where MLK preached and the lan­guage of the move­ment took shape, but the site where we pre­viewed #50StatesAgainst Hate last August in the wake of the Charleston​ mas­sacre. #50States is a new nation­wide effort to ensure com­pre­hen­sive hate crimes laws are passed in all 50 states so that all peo­ple of all back­grounds have the pro­tec­tion that they deserve.

We then trav­eled to Mont­gomery and lis­tened to Bryan Steven­son whose land­mark work at the Equal Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive on crim­i­nal jus­tice issues and sen­tenc­ing reform strikes me as some of the most impor­tant con­tem­po­rary work in this field. We spent time in Selma, lit­er­ally walk­ing the same route across the Edmund Pet­tis Bridge that MLK, Epstein, and oth­ers walked 50 years ear­lier. Although we faced none of the hatred and vio­lence that con­fronted those marchers, we were struck by the his­tory of the moment.

Yet the retreat was not intended sim­ply to cel­e­brate our past. It was designed to remind ​us of the respon­si­bil­ity of the inher­i­tance bequeathed to us by Dr. King and Epstein. It was about climb­ing that hill of his­tory so that we might root our­selves in our legacy but also to use its van­tage point to look out at the hori­zon at the great chal­lenges that remain before us today. For surely, the work is not done.

As we con­sider the ris­ing inequal­ity in our coun­try between the rich and the very poor, we know the work is not done. As we con­sider the con­trast between our grad­u­a­tion rates and incar­cer­a­tion rates, we know the work is not done. As we con­sider the inabil­ity of our laws and the fail­ure of our cul­ture to pro­tect all vul­ner­a­ble groups from dis­crim­i­na­tion, we know the work is not done. As we observe the coars­en­ing of the pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion and the rise of extrem­ism, we know our work is not done.

To para­phrase MLK, change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitabil­ity, but comes through con­tin­u­ous strug­gle. On this MLK Day, we recom­mit to the strug­gle — to straight­en­ing our backs and press­ing for­ward with the hard work of stop­ping the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple, stem­ming the tide of big­otry in all forms, and secur­ing jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all.

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January 13, 2014 0

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

Five Tips for Work­ing with Chil­dren, Tweens, and Teens 

Martin Luther King Jr.

As we honor Mar­tin Luther King Jr.’s legacy through the National Day of Ser­vice on Jan­u­ary 20, 2014, we encour­age teach­ers, par­ents and fam­i­lies to pro­vide com­mu­nity ser­vice oppor­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren and youth.  Below are tips to help make the expe­ri­ence meaningful.

 

“Every­body can be great…because any­body can serve. You don’t have to have a col­lege degree to serve. You don’t have to make your sub­ject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul gen­er­ated by love.”

—Mar­tin Luther King Jr.

 

1.     Gen­er­ate ser­vice learn­ing ideas from chil­dren and youth.

Engage young peo­ple in a dis­cus­sion and brain­storm­ing ses­sion about their com­mu­nity, encour­ag­ing them to think crit­i­cally about its most impor­tant assets and what areas need more sup­port. The more buy-in youth have from the begin­ning, the more invest­ment they will have in the project, and it will have a more last­ing effect on them and their communities.

 

2.     Think beyond com­mu­nity ser­vice to social action.

While it is impor­tant for youth to help oth­ers, the expe­ri­ence will have more mean­ing if they see the big pic­ture.  It is one thing to spend a few hours at a home­less shel­ter dis­trib­ut­ing lunch;  take the ser­vice project to another level by help­ing young peo­ple under­stand why peo­ple are home­less and what they can do about it.  Engage youth in social-action strate­gies, such as writ­ing let­ters; social media cam­paigns, includ­ing online peti­tions and dona­tions; engag­ing in advo­cacy to get a law or bill passed; cre­at­ing PSAs (pub­lic ser­vice announce­ments); and deliv­er­ing speeches.

 

3.     Use the expe­ri­ence as an oppor­tu­nity to build empathy.

Ser­vice pro­vides a rich oppor­tu­nity for youth to develop empa­thy for oth­ers, espe­cially those who are in need.  As they are serv­ing, make sure young peo­ple see the com­plex­ity and human­ity in the peo­ple they serve.  Pre­pare chil­dren for the expe­ri­ence by answer­ing their ques­tions, lis­ten­ing to their fears and dis­pelling their misconceptions.

 

4.     Be aware of bias-related lan­guage and be care­ful not to per­pet­u­ate stereotypes.

Make sure the expe­ri­ence helps youth con­nect with the peo­ple they are serv­ing rather than per­pet­u­ate stereo­types. Address think­ing that focuses on pity or sim­plis­tic under­stand­ing of people’s cir­cum­stances. Guide to move beyond think­ing of peo­ple as the “other” (i.e., “not one of us”) to under­stand­ing and respect­ing their human­ity.. Remind youth to use lan­guage that does not equate peo­ple with their char­ac­ter­is­tics or actions (i.e., say “peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, not “dis­abled peo­ple”; say “youth who bully,” rather than “bullies”).

 

5.     Inspire chil­dren and youth to change the world.

Con­vey the mes­sage to youth that they can change the world.  Even a small, one-time action of help­ing their neigh­bors and com­mu­ni­ties can have a deep impact on a young person.

 

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March 21, 2013 1

Imagine If They Had Lived

Imag­ine a world where the hate crimes against Mar­tin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank and Matthew Shep­ard did not hap­pen. Now, dur­ing ADL’s Cen­ten­nial Year, fight big­otry and extrem­ism by shar­ing this video and pledg­ing to cre­ate a world with­out hate.

In honor of our Cen­ten­nial in 2013, ADL has launched the “Imag­ine a World With­out Hate™” video and action cam­paign, and we invite you to join in.

Take just 80 sec­onds of your time to watch this pow­er­ful video, which imag­ines a world with­out racism, homo­pho­bia or anti-Semitism — a world in which the hate vio­lence that took the lives of Mar­tin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank, Daniel Pearl, Matthew Shep­ard and oth­ers did not hap­pen. Imag­ine what these indi­vid­u­als could have con­tin­ued to con­tribute to soci­ety if big­otry, hate and extrem­ism had not cut their lives trag­i­cally short.

After 100 years of fight­ing big­otry and fos­ter­ing respect, we are cel­e­brat­ing our suc­cesses, while at the same time rec­og­niz­ing that we still have a long way to go to achieve the real­ity of a world with­out hate. Explore the Imag­ine Web Page at www.adl.org/imagine to take action as an indi­vid­ual, com­mu­nity, school or cor­po­ra­tion. Tell us what you will do to cre­ate a world with­out hate.

ADL is most grate­ful to the fam­i­lies of those fea­tured in the video, whose com­mit­ment and par­tic­i­pa­tion made this cam­paign pos­si­ble, and to the Estate of John Lennon for grant­ing us the rights to use his beau­ti­ful and iconic song.

www.adl.org/imagine

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