54 years ago today, these words were spoken by Rabbi Joachim Prinz, immediately before Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
4 years ago today, I used those words as I addressed the San Antonio City Council to advocate for a non-discrimination ordinance to offer limited protection to veterans and LGBTQIA+ individuals.
I quoted Rabbi Prinz’s words:
“…Our fathers taught us thousands of years ago that when God created man, he created him as everybody’s neighbor. Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept. It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man’s dignity and integrity.”
A few days later, when I shared my words again, standing with clergy from across denominations in San Antonio, I ended up on Texas Public Radio, the local ABC affiliate, and on the front page of the San Antonio Express News. While not everyone in my community was so pleased, my advocacy for the NDO (which eventually passed) is one of the acts that I am the most proud of. As I said then, “It is by my religion, that I am called, I am compelled, I am obligated, I am commanded, to support the rights of all human beings and to support the fight of those who are oppressed.”
Today, I used that same conviction to join again with faith leaders from across denominations, this time from across North America, for the Thousand Ministers March for Racial Justice. Together with thousands of religious leaders, I stood and marched for a more just world. Together, our voices sang out and shouted loud: What do we want? justice. When do we want it? Now.
It seems like a simple desire. Yet history shows that it’s a long path towards completion–and that we’re still walking that path. And so, my conviction continues to continue to walk–towards the world that I want, and that I know that we can achieve.
In one of the most powerful moments of the day, Rabbi David Stern blew a shofar for the gathered marchers, as a call for us to “Get Woke,” as invited by April Baskin, a Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism.
“Tekiah! Wake Up. Tekiah! Wake from your slumber… Tekiah! Our nation needs to wake up from the fact that the the Rev Dr Martin Luther King’s vision of ‘I Have A Dream,’ as he so beautifully articulated in his speech, years ago, that it still largely remains an unrealized dream.”
Indeed, we all must wake up, so that we can someday awaken to the world that we want. In the meantime, we must wake towards the call to action to build that world.
Today, I joined others to take a small step towards that world. Tomorrow, I hope to continue that work. I’m not sure I know exactly what those steps will look like, but I know that we can build that world.
As I said 4 years ago, on the steps of San Antonio City Hall, it is our sacred obligation
“To support the fight against discrimination. To work for righteousness in our city, our country and in our world. To pursue legislation that is based not on prejudice, but on justice.”
As we heard today, to sing is to pray twice. And so, I leave you with this music, written by Rabbi Menachem Creditor for his daughter, born shortly after 9/11. And may these words both be a prayer, a collective vision, and a shared mission.