Committed to Listen • MLK Day 2022

Sponsored by The BTS Center, the Maine Council of Churches and Atlantic Black Box

Occurred on Monday, January 17, 2022 

On Monday, January 17, 2022, The BTS Center invited you to join us for a public reading of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermon “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” Originally delivered on 31 March 1968 at Washington National Cathedral, this sermon is still prophetic over a half-century later, as we continue to struggle with the injustices of racism, war, poverty, and now also climate change and a global pandemic.

This event included a reading of a new poem by Portland’s Poet Laureate Maya Williams commissioned for the occasion.

In his sermon, Dr. King writes: “…one of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.” View the full sermon with video and transcript here.

With all that demands our attention in the world today, Dr. King’s words point to a powerful truth – it is easier to sleep through a revolution than to be an active, thoughtful, engaged participant in the ongoing work of justice. It is even easier to feel discouraged to the point of turning away when we feel isolated by our own individual lives and struggles. Yet as Dr. King reminds us:

“We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason 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 way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”

Co-hosted by The BTS Center and the Maine Council of Churches, this event included multiple voices, contemplative music, and space for reflection. 

View the below video, which we shared during the event. The song features prayerful music and images that we hope will inspire you to deeper action for the cause of racial justice and equity.

Meet our Poet

Maya Williams

Maya Williams (she/hers, they/them, and ey/em) is a religious queer Black Mixed Race suicide survivor constantly writing poems. She graduated with a Bachelors in Social Work and a B.A. in English in May 2017. She graduated with a community practice-focused Masters in Social Work and Certificate in Applied Arts and Social Justice at the University of New England in May 2018. She is currently in Randolph College's low residency Masters in Fine Arts for Creative Writing focusing on Poetry. She has competed locally and nationally in slam since her freshman year at East Carolina University under the slam team Word of Mouth in Greenville, North Carolina. While with them, she has placed in the top 20 at the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) in 2015, and opened for folks such as Indira Allegra, Neil Hilborn, and Angela Davis. Maya lives in Portland, Maine, where she was recently named as the city's poet laureate.

We celebrate the powerful and provocative words of Maya Williams, Poet Laureate of Portland, Maine, who shared two poems commissioned for this occasion. On January 17, 2022, Portland Press Herald featured a front-page article celebrating Williams' work, as well as one of the poems Williams composed for the event, entitled ‘Something Needs to Be Done / after Martin Luther King, Jr.’ Below are the two poems shared by Maya:

Something Needs to Be Done
after Martin Luther King, Jr.

A homeless man clutches to cardboard
prayers under fallen snow in downtown
Portland; Nothing has been done.

A woman loses her veteran husband
in rural Alna, and only has a crisp certificate
of thanks for his service; Nothing has been done.

There are only 1.7% of Black people
in the State of Maine, because there still
aren't enough Black people who deem it safe; Nothing has been done.

We're all sad, and, none of these events come
as a surprise to us. We have weeped about the same
quarrels over and over; When will something be done?

The sin of magnifying loneliness has permeated our
nation's psyche of silent dreams for far too long;
We need to overcome.

It's been a long time coming to wake up to revolution
revving from our bodies, our communities, other systems;
We need to overcome.

Binaries of who is "good" and who is "bad" is not
beneficial when too many of God's children lack boots
people in power demand they lift straps from; We need to overcome.

Thank God for people pushing to eradicate
environmental racism to erase climate
change; We shall overcome.

Telling our stories of restorative rest
that helped us awake to the need to
do better; We shall overcome.

There is power in the people of goodwill
to end societal heartache and give birth
to freedom; We shall overcome.

An American Sonnet that Ends in a New World
after Wanda Coleman, Sasha Banks, Sarah Kay, and Joshua Bennett

America crumbles and stumbles into rubble.
Children roast marshmallows at the kindle of money
we no longer need. The one percent are janitors for now.
A few help them. Only if they want to. Together we
are gonna learn how to employ a classless buddy system.
Indigenous people have the land back. Not just the
federally recognized ones ether. What is "federal" now
What is "imperialism" now? What is "war"?
What was it? It doesn't happen overnight now,
but it does happen. Black people don't have to save us anymore.
Black people don't have to fear or die for the wrong reasons
anymore. Grieving has been and will continue to be
encouraged. Poetry still reckons with terror, but not
without the beauty we have built and created.

Meet our Musician

Kelly Muse

Kelly Muse is a pianist from Portland, Maine who is involved in a wide variety of musical projects and events throughout New England. From Big Band to Rock, weddings to musicals, to performing with the Portland Symphony Orchestra, Kelly has been involved with almost any music project conceivable. Currently, he is music director at HopeGateWay Church in Portland, bandleader of the popular wedding/function band Mixology, and teacher to over 20 students during the week at 317 Main in Yarmouth.

With a degree in Jazz Performance and an MBA in Finance, Kelly appreciates both the art and business of music. Every performance is special and will always have an artistic component, and he works hard to make the best possible music for every occasion.

This event was co-hosted by The BTS Center, the Maine Council of Churches and Atlantic Black Box.