On January 18, many reflected and celebrated the spirit, the light, the life and love of Martin Luther King Jr., whose unreserved perseverance to a cause, to a people, and to a nation still resonates this day.
I ponder what Dr. King would think of this nation now. It seems on the precipice of fracturing. On a divide that does not give way to any semblance of understanding or empathy. This nation needs work. James Baldwin stated in Notes of a Native Son, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” Much has improved since Dr. King, but we simply haven’t come far enough. This nation and its institutions are still wrought with insidious injustice, with so much suffering and pain that the fight for equity and justice must be perpetual.
Our work in land conservation is not free from injustice, but our efforts to acknowledge the inequality in our work, to recognize the history of environmental injustice, and provide equitable access to land is a start.
Equity and justice are a pursuit. And with each passing day, our efforts to seek the betterment of those who have borne the trauma of marginalization must be renewed. It is tiresome, but the work must be done. I too, like Baldwin, love this country, in all its beauty, distinctness, and glory. But my love for it demands that I see its faults, its hideous underbelly, and putrid contradictions.
This nation needs renewal and reconciliation, and that takes time. But it is my hope that, like Dr. King, our perseverance for an equitable and just nation and land conservation community is unfettered. Like the monumental legacy he left behind, it is my hope that ours champions the steadfast progression of decency, humility, and simply that which is humane. Let’s do better to take care of one another.
-Yaw Owusu Darko, Sandy Breslin Land Conservation Fellow