“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
It seems like just yesterday I was a little girl dressed in my Sunday best, standing up from a wooden pew and listening to the voices that filled our church singing my father’s favorite hymn. His voice was the loudest I could hear as I stared up at his large blue eyes deep in thought as he proudly bellowed, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” He had the same look in his eyes when we listened to a recording of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s famous “I Have a Dream Speech,” and for school projects I was eager to discover the meaning behind my father’s pensive look as I prepared posterboards, activities, and information about the Civil Rights Movement. As I learned about how laws were changed and allowed more freedom for African Americans I was grateful to see changes made for those who were poorly treated for unfair prejudices. Growing up in a household where we had family and friends of different ethnic backgrounds, religious beliefs, sexual preference, and political opinions, I struggled and still struggle to understand why people were rejected, ignored, bullied, or abused for being different or not fitting into the accepted standards of “normal.” I couldn’t understand why people couldn’t be accepted as Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” As I see people today experiencing these same prejudices whether it be a war of religious beliefs, a kid being bullied for his sexual preference, or people being treated unfairly because of false assumptions about race, I wondered: Will Martin Luther King Jr.’s dreams of acceptance, tolerance, and peace ever be possible?
My first step in answering this question involved determining what peace actually is. In Western society, we’ve heard everything from peace treaties to armistices ending great wars and disagreements. Many Americans tend to think of hippies from the 1960s seeking peace. We also tend to associate the colors of blue and white as symbols of peace and tranquility, like the necklaces I create. As I intricately loop over the blue and white cording into Circle of Life knots and braids with a sense of calm and focus, I notice the tension between the cords that at times still remain. After Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, it seemed as though African Americans were gaining respect and equality, but the recent protests of police brutality towards African Americans illustrates that tensions still remain. Gently pulling the cords in opposite directions to help tighten them, I contemplate on whether you could bring opposing sides together. I began to think that perhaps the answer for peace was in another part of the world.
As I examine Eastern society, the images of peace might lean towards those of a calm Buddha statue or yogic meditations. In contrast to Western society, the colors that symbolize peace for most Eastern cultures is green or white. Upon discovering jade-colored beads and white floral pendants, I began piecing together jewelry representing peace in Eastern culture. Not requiring a calm meditation or deep-breathing exercise, I found myself enjoying this design, but with tiny cording comes even more potential for knots and confusion as I struggle to maintain the cording in the correct position. The Eastern world has it’s struggles with peace as seen by recent tensions during the Hong Kong protests and the Taliban attack on a military school in Peshawar, Pakistan. I began to feel peace was distant and impossible, a fleeting desire that would only remain a wish in Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches and never become a reality.
Early Saturday morning, I cut extra cording and add clasps and jump rings to my jewelry, admiring the work I complete. Watching the blue, brown, and white cords intertwined with one another, I see their strong and resilient connections. I begin to see their contrasting colors as a sense of harmony, compromise, and understanding. Looking back on Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, I see how my active participation and patience while working with these materials encourages them to work together. Peace is not a passive process, it is an active choice that comes from us respecting one another, open-mindedness, and forgiveness. Is it possible? After seeing the recent magazine of Charlie Hebdo claiming “Tout est pardonne” (All is forgiven), I’m beginning to think that with similar attitudes and actions, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dreams will be a living reality we can all aspire to. When we struggle to find forgiveness and acceptance in our hearts, perhaps all we have to remember is: “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”