Atlanta – Though his voice was silenced nearly 50 years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of nonviolence still resonates and inspires.
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars,” King wrote in “Strength to Love,” first published in 1963. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
The AP asked a half-dozen people in the cities where he was born and where he died to talk about what they mean for today’s world.
“When he says ‘hate cannot drive out hate, only light can do that,’ it recognizes that to be bitter about your circumstance is one thing. To retaliate based on your circumstance is quite another,” said Terri Lee Freeman, president of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, at the site of the old Lorraine Motel.
“So, Dr. King reminds us that it is usually through love — actionable love — that we are able to make change.”
“You think about the grand scheme of things, you can’t fight hate with hate in the world we live in today. You can’t fight violence with violence,” said Mike Conley, a guard for the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA.
“When people come and want to inflict hurt on somebody, you can’t come back and do the same to them,” Conley said. “Otherwise, we’re in this never-ending spiral that we’re in the middle of right now.”
“This is a time of moral reckoning in our nation. We must choose to stand on the side of light and love,” said the Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
“We have to stand up as Americans and say that we will stand on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, those who experience discrimination both historically, and presently,” he added. “This is our time, this is our moment to decide what kind of nation we want to be.”
“He talked about love and hate so effectively,” said Xernona Clayton, King’s office manager in Atlanta. “Dr. King really hated no one. He loved everyone, he really did. He practiced it, and he preached it.”
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