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Posts by Paul Costello1

Exhausting Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy

By Robin Givhan Senior critic-at-large January 11, 2022 at 7:36 p.m. EST

The president traveled Tuesday to Atlanta to deliver a speech on the sanctity of voting rights — a geographic choice that speaks to the reality that nothing about this democracy is assured. Nothing is certain. Georgia gave Democrats the edge in the Senate and it was critical in helping Joe Biden win the presidency. It is also the state where election officials have been under extended duress as Republicans demanded recounts, alleged fraud and passed new laws that made voting more of an obstacle course than a walk in the park.

Biden’s visit included a stop at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, a ceremonial laying of a wreath at the crypt of King and his wife Coretta Scott King, private time with their family and a visit to the historical Ebenezer Baptist Church where King was once senior pastor. Biden also spoke from the Atlanta University Center Consortium, an institute that straddles Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, from which King graduated. On a day trip that only had the president on the ground for a few hours, there was an awful lot of MLK.

But then, there is always a lot of MLK whenever the subject turns to racial justice, equal opportunity and the dream of a colorblind society. Everyone lays claim to King’s legacy with such certitude that if as many people marched alongside him in the 1960s as have said they did, then there would have been virtually no one standing on the sidelines wielding batons and casting aspersions. The dream of which King spoke would be a reality. And the January holiday in his honor would be a celebration of the American experiment’s completion rather than a remembrance of a promise yet to be fulfilled. But we like our history pretty.

The president arrived in Atlanta with Vice President Harris and a group of Democratic lawmakers — none of whom were Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who seems to be the only Democratic senator who matters, never seems to want what his colleagues want or always seems to have issues with what they want or the speed with which they want it. Biden was also accompanied by activists seeking the passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation aimed at ensuring unencumbered access to the polls and minimum federal standards for the way in which elections are conducted. Opponents argue that election security needs to be ramped up to prevent fraud; and, they don’t want Washington setting rules about how local elections are run. Those differing points of view are muddied and tortured by no small number of conservatives who see ballot stuffing and other subterfuge even when there is no evidence it exists. It’s all stalled because of the filibuster, which requires 60 votes in the Senate for legislation to pass.

Biden calls for changing the filibuster in major voting rights speech

In the midst of this, MLK is inspiration, retort, rallying cry and protective cover. The civil rights leader’s name is the conservative rebuttal to concerns about systemic racism. King’s name is a love song for bootstrapping individualists. It’s akin to a glide path to a safe landing for anyone accused of trying to elevate themselves by diminishing others.

During his speech, the president remarked that King’s family had offered a kind of reprimand to those who use his name in vain: “It’s not enough to praise their father. They even said on this holiday, don’t celebrate his birthday unless you’re willing to support what he lived for and what he died for.”

The conservative attachment to MLK is often more romantic than that of his more direct heirs, who are the voting rights activists who have taken to the streets, who agitate for change, who do the hard work of organizing — some of whom decided not to attend Biden’s speech to underscore their exasperation, impatience and disillusionment with the president’s sense of urgency in seeing voting rights legislation passed.

As the memory of King has aged, it’s taken on a smooth-edged, golden hue. Quotations from his speeches have been memorialized in stone but they’ve also been repeated so often and with such disregard for context that they’ve taken on the depth and specificity of a daily horoscope. The words mean whatever you want them to mean.

King was only 39 years old when he died, and while he was more liberal than radical, it’s hard to imagine that he would be so revered if he were a 30-something activist today — a Black man marching in the streets and advocating for fair wages, voting rights, racial justice and a more equitable form of capitalism. He and his fellow protesters would likely be blamed for stirring the pot and creating upheaval in places where everything was just fine before they showed up spouting their un-American ideas — which is precisely what happened in his day.

Over time, King has been recast as a warmhearted preacher who just wanted everyone to get along and only the most base among us disagreed with him. Biden called out some of those wretched names as he was making his plea to lawmakers to stand on the right side of history.

“So I ask every elected official in America, how do you want to be remembered? The consequential moments in history, they present a choice,” Biden said. “Do you want to be on … the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis? This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy.”

But everyone sees themselves on the side of King. Everyone basks in the glow of his legacy. Few people see themselves as the moral equivalent of Connor, the segregationist head of Alabama public safety who loosed the dogs and opened fire hoses on civil rights activists. They see themselves under the heading of populists protecting the jobs, homesteads and rights of working-class America. They are not Davis, the leader of the Confederacy. They are proud Southerners protecting their history and heritage. They are not Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama standing in the doorway of the University of Alabama as Black students tried to enter. They are concerned parents worried about critical race theory and fretting that their children will be made to feel bad for being White.

As Biden stood in the late afternoon sun, the background populated with young people, he argued for democracy’s future by appealing to the country’s sense of history. He made plain his desire to get rid of the filibuster so the stagnating legislation could pass. “I’ve been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the last two months,” he said. “I’m tired of being quiet.”

He pounded the lectern. He said “damn” and then backpedaled to “darn.” He warned of democracy’s fragility. And he invoked King’s name, forever hopeful that its glow isn’t so blinding that it can still enlighten.

Quotes from MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Letter from the Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”


― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham

“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be…This is the inter-related structure of reality.”

― Martin Luther King Jr

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham

“One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham

“So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. ”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham

“The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles o popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being ‘disturbers of the peace’ and ‘outside agitators.’ But they went on with the conviction that they were a ‘colony of heaven’ and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be ‘astronomically intimidated.’ They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest. Things are different now. The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the archsupporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the Church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the Church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham

“Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham

“Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Anyone who lives inside the US can never be considered an outsider anywhere in the country”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham

“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
― Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter From Birmingham Jail

“All too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come. This is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom; something without has reminded him that he can gain it.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice ― or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much much more effectively than the people of good will.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation—and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

“. . . the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail0

“In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

Dr. King was bold. Don’t make him bland.

By E.J. Dionne Jr.Columnist|Follow January 16, 2022 at 8:00 a.m. EST

This holiday weekend, Americans will celebrate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. of their choosing. That’s not surprising. But it is a problem.

If the devil can quote scripture for his purposes, it’s not shocking that all of us are inclined to cite the pronouncements of historical figures that ratify our own views. Liberals love to remind people of Ronald Reagan’s warm words about immigrants. Conservatives are fond of citing certain John F. Kennedy quotations about tax cuts and national security.Opinions to start the day, in your inbox. Sign up.

King’s role in our history was not that of a politician but of a prodder of our national conscience and a critic of our failures. In his all-too-brief lifetime, he was often condemned as a radical by defenders of the status quo.

The holiday in his honor is thus quite different from, say, Presidents’ Day or the Fourth of July. They are unambiguous celebrations of our country. In principle, at least, MLK Day is a time to reflect on the urgency of social change and the racial and economic injustices that required, as King insisted, repentance and reform.

Colbert I. King: Martin Luther King Jr.’s words on voting rights resonate all too well today

In practice, precisely because King has become in retrospect a consensual hero, we have turned him into a consensual figure. My Post colleague Robin Givhan said it well in a fine essay this past week: “As the memory of King has aged, it’s taken on a smooth-edged, golden hue.”

King has become a man for all viewpoints partly because he was many things at once.

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He was a militant civil rights leader and a preacher of the Christian Gospel. He was a believer in racial concord and an agitator — in the best sense of that word — against the racism that permeated our institutions. He believed in the conversion of adversaries, but getting there often required confrontation and discomfort. King was far more a “both/and” figure than an either/or, yet the capaciousness of his worldview did not stop him from drawing clear moral lines.

Among his many addresses and sermons, a March 1968 speech at Grosse Pointe High School in Michigan offers one of the best illustrations of why it is so easy — and so misleading — to quote King out of context.

Conservatives love to note that King believed in individual achievement and responsibility, which is true. “It’s very important for people to engage in self-help programs and do all they can to lift themselves by their own bootstraps,” he said that day. “I think there is a great deal that the Black people of this country must do for themselves and that nobody else can do for them.”

But that comment came in the course of a critique of an “over-reliance on the bootstrap philosophy” as it applied to Black Americans, given that “no other ethnic group has been enslaved on American soil” and “that America made the Black man’s color a stigma.” He noted that a Mississippi arch-segregationist, Sen. James O. Eastland, was among those receiving a share of the “millions of dollars a year in federal subsidies not to farm and these are so often the very people saying to the Black man that he must lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

“Well,” King concluded, “that appears to me to be a kind of socialism for the rich and rugged hard individualistic capitalism for the poor.”

The Post’s View: Martin Luther King, Jr. did not give up. Those fighting for democracy must follow his example.

Similarly, King believed profoundly in moral uplift and the need for individual redemption. “Naturally, I believe in changing the heart,” he said. “I happen to be a Baptist preacher and that puts me in the heart-changing business and Sunday after Sunday I’m preaching about conversion and the need for the new birth and regeneration. … I’m honest enough to see the gone-wrongness of human nature.”

Here again, however, King was making a case against “the notion that legislation can’t solve the problem, that you’ve got to change the heart.” On the contrary, King argued, only legislation could guarantee racial justice.

“It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated,” he said. “It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

King was so reasonable and balanced that we forget how angry he could get at injustice, and how impatient he was in his 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail with “the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.” They are words worth remembering in our current struggles over voting rights.

King earned this holiday not by being bland but by being bold. He was killed because he dared to challenge us to change. He challenges us still.

Montgomery Co. Public Schools teacher’s union votes no confidence; council holding emergency session

Classrooms not Zoom”: Rally held to reopen Montgomery County Public Schools  | WDVM25 & DCW50 | Washington, DC

By Stephanie Ramirez Published  January 13, 2022 6:54PM Updated 6:54PM NewsFOX 5 DC

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (FOX 5 DC) – The Montgomery County Education Association, which represents thousands of Montgomery County Public School teachers, announced on Thursday that out of nearly 7,000 members voting in a day, around 94% voted “no confidence” in both the Montgomery County School Board and Interim Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight.

The vote comes after a much anticipated MCPS virtual meeting ended in more frustration and little specifics shared on the current state of COVID-19 within MCPS’ more than 200 schools.

The response: the Montgomery County’s Education and Culture Committee is now planning an emergency session with MCPS next Thursday to discuss details not shared in the Wednesday night meeting.

Many MCPS families were still wanting to know about the staffing shortages and are looking for a more clear explanation of how decisions will be made on whether a school will go back to virtual instruction.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Montgomery County community conversation falls flat for MCPS parents, students

“You know what, we’ll do it again. We’ll have another community conversation, and we will take the feedback you’ve provided, and we will figure out how we do we share the information so that it is information that is important,” said the Interim Superintendent during Thursday’s Board of Education Meeting.

The Thursday school board session is where MCPS shared some of the facts and figures participants were looking for Wednesday night.

For example, a graph showing the bus driver shortage last week showed Jan. 5 had the largest shortage with 208 drivers absent. The school board was told 70 drivers called out between 4:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m.

School leaders were also told prior to the start of the school year that MCPS had a bus driver shortage of around 140 drivers. School and transportation leaders got that number down, but it shot up again to a little over 110 drivers just before the winter break.

READ MORE: Montgomery County schools not likely to receive National Guard assistance for bus driver shortage

On teacher shortages, MCPS provided the snapshot of substitute teacher requests for next week. The graphic showed at least 889 requests are already in for Monday, January 13th. A little over half were still unfilled by the time of the presentation.

MCPS also told the school board they hired 550 new subs since the beginning of the school year and processed around double the amount of applications, but the hiring process takes time.

MCPS also told the school board it was updating virtual education with changes likely in effect or being shared next week. Part of those plans include teachers recording the same lessons they’re teaching classes to have virtual instruction more in-line with in-person instruction on the elementary level.

For secondary students, teachers will decide whether to have the students Zoom-in for live instruction or meet virtually during a non-instruction period.

Town Hall with new AmeriCorps CEO

The NonProfit Times

Project CHANGE member securing food for families

Family Learning Solutions has Oneyda Hernandez serving this year and Oneyda is leading the way to provide food security for families by teaching them how to grow vegetables hydroponically. Here is a recent report.

Partnership with ACRT, Clifton Park Baptist Church, Project Change-AmeriCorps and University of Maryland, Public Health
Over the summer of 2021, we established a partnership with the Clifton Park Baptist Church to assist in the organization of essential food rescue services for those in need by supplying staff to help harvest the fresh produce grown in their hydroponic garden. FLS AmeriCorps Member Oneyda Hernandez is one of the individuals responsible for helping to maintain these gardens and works alongside the church’s volunteers to package the hydroponic lettuce into food rescue packages in preparation for distribution to community members. 

Prior to this, FLS is fortunate to have created partnerships with ACRT (September 2020) and Project Change-AmeriCorps (September 2018), and University of Maryland (November 2020) whose support has helped us expand our mentoring, tutoring, and FGH initiatives into the wider community.

In a devastating pandemic, US teens are ‘more alone than ever.’ Many struggle to find help.


By Paulina Firozi, The Washington Post December 19th 2021

Nathan Asher was scrolling through pages and pages of therapists. Starting in January, just shy of a year into the pandemic, they were looking for someone who could help with what felt like a crescendo of anxiety.

Asher, now 18 and a freshman at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., said around that time, things kept piling up. Facing mounting stress and burnout, Asher quit the French horn after six years only to pick up an entirely new instrument as they were applying to colleges for music. Their mother had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, so their family was “pretty hard-core in lockdown because we didn’t want to put her at risk at all,” Asher said. Under the weight of it all, Asher was struggling and wanted help.

Multiple boxes needed to be checked: The therapist needed to offer virtual sessions or be nearby their North Carolina home. The therapist would need to be gender-affirming and familiar with LGBT patients, and would need to provide what felt like a supportive space.

But every search, Asher would come up short.

“I didn’t need an addiction therapist, I didn’t need a faith therapist, I didn’t need a relationship therapist,” they said. “I was calling and sending emails and very rarely would I get a reply back.”

Asher’s search for care came as health professionals say mental health challenges among youth and their families have skyrocketed, exacerbated in the last couple of years in part because of the pandemic. Over the past year and a half, they say the stressors that young people experience even normally have been amplified, disproportionately impacting communities hit hardest by the pandemic. For some, this has meant scrambling for care as demand swells and as some are left behind because of lack of access. Still, as public awareness grows around mental well-being, others are creating new outlets for relief when things get to be too much.

The message has only grown louder in recent months. In late October, three prominent medical groups declared a national state of emergency in children’s mental health. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that while suicide rates dropped in 2020 overall, that wasn’t the case for younger Americans, with a slight uptick in suicides among all age groups 10 to 34, and a significant 5 percent increase among 25-to-34-year-olds. On Dec. 7, the nation’s top physician released a 53-page report that serves as an exclamation point on the warning that young people are in a crisis, saying the cumulative effect of the challenges they grapple with has been “devastating.”

“On the ground, in our clinics and hospitals, we’ve been seeing really increasing numbers of children with mental health concerns,” said Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “A lot of what we’re seeing is more severe, and it’s getting harder and harder to access care. It just really felt like it was at a tipping point where we’re just seeing so many kids who are in need of support and without enough resources.”

[Suicide attempts among younger Alaskans have risen even as overall suicide deaths declined in 2020]

Beers, whose group was one of the three that made the declaration, detailed the ways education and normal activities for young people have been disrupted. Many have faced significant amounts of loss and grief. And these impacts on youth are disparate – the pandemic has had a profoundly disproportionate impact on communities of color.

“With the pandemic being such that it’s so isolating with us quarantining and socially distancing, I think people’s rates of depression, anxiety, for those who experienced trauma, maybe even PTSD, have gone up,” said Ernestine Briggs-King, a psychologist and Duke University associate professor. “And yet it’s been harder to access services – even though in some ways it’s been easier.”

Briggs-King said a ramp up in virtual therapy offerings during the pandemic in some ways increased whom providers have been able to reach, and allowed some people more options for accessing care. But she said people without equal access to telemedicine, perhaps because of a lack of Internet or smartphone access, have been left behind.

For some young people, increased demand for online therapy meant providers were booked and unavailable in times of need.

This year was not Asher’s first time searching for mental health care – they had previously struggled with depression in ninth grade. Around that time, they said they realized they were transgender. Asher came out that summer at a music camp, and then switched schools entirely going into 10th grade.

Asher had previously been diagnosed with a “mild episode of a major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder,” they said. So when stress during the pandemic accumulated, Asher knew how to look for a therapist. But this time, there were new obstacles, compounded by the public health crisis.

It took three months before Asher was able to find a therapist “because all of the telehealth therapists were full, and a lot of normal therapists were not wanting to make the switch to teletherapy.”

When they finally found someone to connect with, the therapist suggested Asher get an evaluation for ADHD. That evaluation wouldn’t happen until June.

“So I spent a good six months just kind of ruminating about the fact that I may or may not have ADHD,” Asher said. After that appointment, Asher said, they were diagnosed with autism, in addition to a confirmed ADHD diagnosis. The right diagnosis came as both a relief and its own source of stress – they began to understand underlying causes of their experiences, but it meant Asher needed to find more help, more answers, and perhaps face more roadblocks, as the pandemic continued.

“You start to realize, ‘Wow, this system is not made to support me,’ ” Asher said. “This system is not made to be accessible.”

Even before the pandemic, “we were in the middle of a children’s mental health crisis,” said Nathaniel Counts, a senior vice president of behavioral health innovation for Mental Health America.

He said in the decade before the pandemic, rates of adolescent major depressive episodes surged, and rates of children presenting in the emergency department for self-harm and suicidal ideation were increasing.

Then the pandemic hit, bringing its own set of burdens.

“The two words I’d used to describe it are disruption and stress,” he said. “The way that covid affected children is very different, depending on the child. But the common theme is it disrupted your day-to-day activities and created a new set of stressors for your family and for yourself.”

In big ways and small, the enduring public health crisis may have dramatically changed the daily world of a child or teen.

There were missed days of school, canceled sports competitions, skipped playdates; loss of access to mental health care or social services or food; loss of loved ones – the U.S. Surgeon General’s report cites these and a multitude of other unprecedented challenges that could have played a role in overall mental well-being.

Since the pandemic’s start, the report says “rates of psychological distress among young people, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders, have increased.” It points to recent research covering 80,000 young people worldwide that found depressive and anxiety symptoms doubled during this time.

There is also a growing public awareness about youth mental health that is partly a result of young people themselves discussing the issue and reducing the stigma, including through social media, said Danielle Ramo, a clinical psychologist and chief clinical officer at BeMe Health, a digital mental health platform for teens.

“Some of it is just broadly this generation being a bit more open in talking about their struggles,” she said. “And the plethora of the social world and the internet makes those conversations more public.”

Sreeya Pittala found herself struggling a few months into the pandemic and virtual school. Feeling “more alone than ever,” she said she wanted a place to have an open conversation about mental health, something she felt her school was missing.

So Pittala, now an 18-year-old senior at Newark Charter School in Delaware, started a chapter of Bring Change to Mind, a national nonprofit with student-led clubs at high schools across the country.

The group started meeting virtually, an outlet for members to talk about any struggles or anxiety related to school. At the time, there was plenty fueling that stress.

Going through the motions of high school behind a screen became an unending task, Pittala said. There were always assignments to complete even while the options for a respite – a lunch break at school with peers, time with friends at all – had been taken away. Even when calls with friends were scheduled, Pittala said, they were often for the purpose of working together on school assignments rather than “scheduling a call just to talk about life.”

She described the pandemic for teenagers as “pretty lonely.”

“It was just really unmotivating and exhausting. It felt miserable at times,” she said.

In its October declaration, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association called for increased federal funding for mental health screenings, diagnosis and treatment. It also urged increased funding for and implementation of mental health care in schools.

“If you have really strong mental health and social emotional programing in schools that’s focusing on health promotion, that’s going to help create an environment that is more supportive of all children,” Beers said.

In November, the chief executive of the Children’s Hospital Association submitted a letter to the Senate Finance Committee calling for support for children’s mental health. The group said the letter was in response to an earlier request from lawmakers for input on ways to “develop bipartisan legislation to address barriers to mental health care” amid worsening trends during the pandemic.

In his recent advisory, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy said it would take an “all-of-society” effort to address mental health, and urged action.

“It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place,” Murthy said.

Jessica Caballero, 17, is also involved in a Bring Change to Mind club at West Ranch High School in Stevenson Ranch, Calif. Even before the pandemic, she described a challenging start to the school year that began in 2019. There were fires near where she lives in Southern California. In the fall, she went into lockdown when there was a shooting at another school in the district.

“It wasn’t really a good year for any of us, you could say – all this stress and anxiety,” she said. “When covid hit, it just hit all of us pretty hard.”

She remembers thinking she’d have just a couple of weeks off school. Then her aquatic club team practices were canceled. The in-person school year vanished.

“It really left me in a state of isolation,” she said.

She found solace in her family and her little siblings. She also found comfort in the club meetings that provided a place to talk openly about mental health.

“As a Mexican American Peruvian, mental health was never a huge topic in my household. It was always kind of seen as a choice like, ‘Oh, are you depressed? Just be happy. You have no reason to feel like this,’ ” Caballero said. “So I never really had this kind of strong connection with anybody in particular, especially when it came to talking about my own struggles.”

She said she wishes “more people just validated the feelings of people who need to talk and who need help.”

Counts said he believes young people should also be “directly engaged” with coming up with solutions for meeting youth mental health needs.

“The world of children is changing so rapidly, far more rapidly than I think adults can grapple with,” he said. “Only young people really have that kind of fundamental insight into what it is they need.”

Beyond school walls, Briggs-King said, it helps to have resources and sources of support in any space young people are in. That can come from coaches, teachers or neighbors – because when an entire community understands more about trauma, it may be better equipped to notice when issues arise.

She said: “Then you have a piece to communicate about a topic of conversation: ‘You know, I was worried about you. How are you sleeping? I know you’re not hanging out with your friends, you’re not playing sports – are you OK? Is there anything going on?’ “

Having an understanding of mental health and trauma can also help people communicate what they are feeling, she said, and can help families and friends pay attention to signs and express concerns they may have about loved ones.

Briggs-King added: “My mama used to say, ‘You know better, you do better.’

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

The Washington Post’s Dave Jorgenson and Chris Vazquez contributed to this

MLK Day- The Man in the Mirror

I Have a Dream - Poster Art for Social Justice - Ricardo Levins Morales

A musical tribute to help us celebrate the day.

5 of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most memorable speeches

Martin Luther King, Jr. Wall Art: Prints, Paintings & Posters | Art.com

By Emilie Plesset

Before he was assassinated at age 39, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, organized the 1963 March on Washington, advocated for civil disobedience and non-violent protest, and became one of the most influential figures in American history.

Fifty years after his death, here’s a look back at some of the civil rights leader’s most memorable speeches.

“I Have a Dream” – Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963

In his most famous speech, King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and called for an end to racism in the United States before a crowd of more than 250,000 people.

“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”

“Our God is Marching On” – Selma, Alabama, March 25, 1965

Delivered after the historic marches from Selma to Montgomery, historians consider King’s triumphant deliverance of his “Our God is Marching On” speech to mark the end of the civil rights movement’s first phase focusing on legal and political rights. The movement would later focus on fighting for economic equality.

“How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, you shall reap what you sow… How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

 “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence” – Riverside Church in New York City, April 4, 1967

Exactly one year before his assassination, King condemned the Vietnam War at a time when a majority of Americans still supported the effort. King was criticized for the speech, considered one of his most controversial, and lost supporters for being too political.

“We are taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in Southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”

 “The Other America” – Stanford University, April 14, 1967

Just 10 days after declaring his opposition to the Vietnam War, King spoke to a crowd at Stanford University and advocated for economic and social equality. In his “Other America” speech, King described “two Americas” to highlight the growing poverty gap in the United States as a root of inequality. King gave a similar version of this speech at Michigan’s Grosse Pointe High School on March 14, 1968.

“One America is beautiful for situation… millions of young people grow up in the sunlight of opportunity. But tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the ebulliency of hope into the fatigue of despair… They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

“I’ve been to the Mountaintop” – Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968

In his final speech, King addressed a church filled with striking sanitation workers who were protesting their low pay and working conditions. King emphasized the importance of unity and nonviolent protest in the fight for justice, no matter how painful the struggle.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop… And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

What is Servant Leadership- MLK Day

IPHA AmeriCorps Members to Serve on MLK Day - IPHA

MLK day invites us to reflect not only on service but on leadership. Here is an inspiring video on the principles of Servant Leadership, the role that MLK best epitomized.