Victory comes through the dignity and courage of speaking your truth to power.
“Once again we must hear the words of Jesus echoing across the centuries: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you and pray for them that despite fully use you.’ If we fail to do this our protest will end up as a meaningless drama on the stage of history, and its memory will be shrouded with the ugly garments of shame. In spite of the mistreatment that we have confronted we must not become bitter, and end up hating our white brothers. As Booker T. Washington said, ‘Let no man pull you so low as to make you hate him.’ If you will protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian Love, when the history books are written in future generations, the historians will have to pause and say ‘There lived a great people – a black people – who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.’ This is our challenge and our overwhelming responsibility.” As I took my seat the people rose to their feet and applauded. I was thankful to God that the message had gotten over and that the task of combining the militant and the moderate had gotten over and at least partially accomplished. The people had been as enthusiastic when I urged them to love as they were when I urged them to protest.
As I sat listening to the continued applause I realized that this speech had evoked more response than any speech or sermon I had ever delivered, and yet it was virtually unprepared. I came to see for the first time what older preachers meant when they said ‘Open your mouth and God will speak for you.” While I would not let this experience tempt me to overlook the need for continued preparation, it would always remind me that God can transform man’s weakness into his glorious opportunity.
When Mrs. Parks was introduced from the rostrum by E. N. French, the audience responded by giving her a standing ovation. She was their heroine. They saw in her courageous person the symbol of their hopes and aspirations.
Now the time had come for the all-important resolution. Ralph Abernathy read the words slowly and forcefully. The resolution called upon the Negroes not to resume riding the buses until (1) courteous treatment by the bus operators was guaranteed; (2) passengers were seated on a first-come, first-served basis-Negroes seating from the back of the bus toward the front, whites from the front toward the back; (3) Negro bus operators were employed on predominantly Negro routes. At the words, “All in favor of the motion stand,” every person to a man stood up, and those who were already standing raised their hands. Cheers began to ring out from both inside and outside.
As I drove away my heart was full. I had never seen such enthusiasm for freedom. And yet this enthusiasm was tempered by amazing self-discipline. The unity of purpose and esprit de corps of these people had been indescribably moving. No historian would ever be able fully to describe this meeting and no sociologist would ever be able to interpret it adequately. One had to be a part of the experience really to understand it.
At the Ben Moore Hotel, as the elevator slowly moved up to the roof garden where the banquet was being held, I said to myself, the victory is already won, no matter how long we struggle to attain the three points of the resolution. It is a victory larger than the bus situation. The real victory was in the mass meeting, where thousands of black people stood revealed with a new sense of dignity and destiny.”
–Martin Luther King Jr. remarks from his Book Stride Toward Freedom