Krista's Journal: Change and Hope Come from the Margins

August 25, 2011

We are all sick with the flu here at On Being, so this journal will be short!

I can only urge you to listen to this wise voice of history and its deep resonance for the contemporary world. Vincent Harding uses the word “magnificent” often and he embodies that word.

He offers an essential and utterly helpful perspective, I feel, to our ongoing collective reflection on civility, moral imagination, and social healing. He was a friend and speechwriter of Martin Luther King Jr. and a force in the philosophy of nonviolence that drove the civil rights movement’s success. That is to say, he was at the center of a moment of human and societal transformation that was wrested from another American era of toxic division and social violence. And Vincent Harding has continued to mine the lessons of that time in the intervening decades, and to bring them creatively and usefully to young people today.

These are stories we rarely see or hear, and they are happening in neighborhoods in places like Detroit and Philadelphia where our lens is usually focused on despair and decay.

So among other things — interestingly, from a very different direction, echoing my conversation with Frances Kissling — Vincent Harding reminds us that change and hope come from the margins. And he has stories to tell about that hope as it’s embodied and lived on the margins of today.

This is also a beautiful hour of production — rich with the music by which people, as Vincent Harding puts it, did not merely demonstrate but “sang” their way to freedom in the 1960s. You will never hear the song “This Little Light of Mine” or the phrase “a Kumbaya moment” in the same way again. Enjoy, and be enriched.

Recommended Reading

Image of Hope and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement
Author: Professor of Religion and Social Transformation Iliff School of Theology Vincent Harding
Publisher: Orbis Books (2010)
Binding: Paperback, 223 pages

This is a collection of essays written in and beyond the 1960s, but telling stories of that time which many of us simply have not heard. They also have great relevance to today, and not merely for American culture but for a world hungry for knowledge about the makings of democracy.

Also, this beautiful essay by Vincent Harding, titled "The Land That Has Never Been Yet" is imagination-opening about the spiritual sensibility of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights philosopher Howard Thurman.

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was chairperson of the Veterans of Hope Project at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, where he was professor of Religion and Transformation. His published works include Hope and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement, There Is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America, Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, and the essay "Is America Possible?"