Let’s Become Firefighters: A Message for Black History Month

Written by
Demorrious Robinson

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By: Demorrious Robinson, IT Manager
Co-Chair: Insource BIPOC Affinity Group

In celebration of Black History Month we’d like to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., following the recent unveiling of “The Embrace” statue in Boston which recognizes his work and the movement he helped to inspire. The theme of this year’s Black History Month is Black Resistance. In a famous conversation between Dr. King and his friend, singer, activist and actor, Harry Belafonte, King stated:

“I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win, but I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had, and I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.”

In Belafonte’s memoir “My Song” he shares, “[King’s] statement [above] took me aback. It was the last thing I would have expected to hear, considering the nature of our struggle.” He then asked King, “What should we do?” and King replied that we should,

“Become the firemen. Let us not stand by and let the house burn.”

Deeply embedded in this conversation is a global call for us all, regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, etc., to become firefighters. King realized that while integration was important, it revealed more work that was necessary. Integration ultimately happened, but the issues that tore at the soul of the nation lingered on in a raging fire. Will you join us in suiting up to fight to extinguish this fire? The nation’s soul depends on it!

We fight it by no longer being silent about the things that matter. We fight it by authentically developing empathy and compassion for others oppressed and ostracized. We fight it by attaching our lives to causes that are bigger than ourselves. We fight it by becoming passionate allies of communities that need them. We fight it by believing that everyone matters and that everyone is essential to the greater good of mankind. We must fight it, or it will continue to rage on.

Although we may put on flame-retardant suits, we may still get burned. It will be a long, difficult fight. But every burn, every scrape, and every cut will be worth it. As my late grandmother would say, “It’s our duty to leave this world better than we found it.”

Will you fight with me?