We call on artists, creative organizers, concerned citizens, and all community members to join together on April 4th, 2017, to draw inspiration from and breathe new life into the prophetic words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., strengthening our commitment to speak truth to power and sparking creative action in the year ahead.
April 4, 1967, marks a critical turning-point in the life of Dr. King. On that date—one year to the day before he was assassinated—he delivered a talk entitled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” The occasion was a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam, held at Riverside Church in New York City.
The silence Dr. King was moved to break in the Riverside Speech had been imposed by people who told him Vietnam has nothing to do with civil rights, “‘Peace and civil rights don’t mix,’ they say. ‘Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people?’ they ask.’” That night, he responded with unparalleled eloquence and power: “We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.”
This is the most-quoted part of the Riverside Speech:
[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Fifty years later, to walk in his footsteps, to give voice once again to his powerful words, and to kick off a year of efforts by many organizations around the U.S. to remind people of Dr. King’s real message and unfinished work, the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture and partners are sponsoring #RevolutionOfValues, a one-day National Action taking place on April 4th, 2017.
HOW IT WORKS:
Any individual or organization can take part in #RevolutionOfValues by hosting an event and/or contributing material via social media inspired by Dr. King’s historic speech. Detailed instructions for many ways of taking part may be found in the #RevolutionOfValues Toolkit. For example, your event could include one or many of the following elements:
Read the speech in public. As a group, read all or part of one of the versions of the Riverside Speech (archived here by our project partner, MLK + 50). We also offer scripts with powerful excerpts and a shorter call-and-response version of the speech’s main points, suitable for participatory public performance.
Host a #RevolutionOfValues Open Mic with poems, music, performance, and other writings inspired by the speech and/or by the prompts below.
Host a Story Circle, inviting friends and neighbors to share stories in response to the prompts below using this powerful, easy approach to dialogue.
Make #RevolutionOfValues art. Invite people to a studio or other accessible workspace, lay on the art supplies, and make images inspired by the speech to inspire others to take action.
Renew Dr. King’s words by using them in new forms. For example, in the #RevolutionOfValues public folder, you’ll find a lesson plan suitable for middle-school and up based on students writing haikus extracted from the Riverside Speech.
Post a story, image, poem, audio or video clip to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram using the hashtags #RevolutionOfValues or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
#RevolutionOfValues events can take place anywhere—in your home, school, place of worship, community center, library, art studio, local cafe, public park, etc.—and on any scale that makes sense for you and your community.
WANT TO TAKE PART? IT'S SIMPLE!
Download the Toolkit and learn how to host a #RevolutionOfValues event and/or take part via social media.
If you’re planning an in-person event, schedule it and put it on the map.
Upload media with the tags #RevolutionOfValues. (And follow #RevolutionOfValues by finding images and texts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram featuring those tags.)
The Toolkit includes simple, accessible tips and how-tos for taking part in #RevolutionOfValues. You’ll also get access to the USDAC #RevolutionOfValues Public Folder, chockful of signs, social media graphics, flyers, press advisories, and more detailed project information.
(Click on a group to learn more about their participation and call to action for #RevolutionOfValues)
MORE INFO ON #RevolutionOfValues:
“Radical” is a much maligned word: it comes from the Latin radix (root), and refers to anything that goes to the root of the matter, rather than tinkering with the leaves and branches. Many people have downplayed Dr. King’s deep spiritual and political radicalism, trying to whitewash his true views. Now it is more important than ever to use our creativity to nourish the roots of love and justice.
Prompts for Story Circles and Art-Making:
To spur your imagination and participation, here are three prompts you can use in a Story Circle or to inspire new creation:
Share a story, image, or other offering about a time you stepped beyond imposed boundaries to speak truth to and about power.
Share a story, image, or other offering that shows how our collective challenges are related and that surmounting them requires us of all. What showed you that racism, militarism, materialism and economic justice, climate crisis, mass incarceration, gender justice, disability rights, and freedom of expression are all connected?
Share a story, image, or other offering about a time you questioned the fairness and justice of a policy and decided to take action to help put it right.
Below, you will find information on other April 4th resources and actions:
The MLK + 50 project is calling the year from April 4th 2017 to April 4th 2018 a “year of truth and transformation.” The website for this interfaith education and action project, hosted by The Shalom Center, features a wealth of written resources.
Riverside Church is hosting a year of actions and activities called “Beyond The Dream: Reliving King’s Legacy.”
The National Council of Elders, which is led by sixties civil rights movement veterans, is organizing group readings of the Riverside Speech on April 4, 2017.
Branches of the Movement for Black Lives took action in January to #ReclaimMLK, as this piece from Chicago explains, citing the Riverside Speech.
The New Poor People’s Campaign is calling for a nationwide movement, “calling artists to take up the baton and use our creative power to provoke conversation and action around the need to build a New Poor People’s Campaign today that can confront the interconnected evils of racism, poverty, militarism and ecological devastation.”
INSPIRATION FROM THE SPEECH...
Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.
We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.
Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter -- but beautiful -- struggle for a new world.
And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace.