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“The dispossessed of this nation — the poor, both white and Negro — live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against the injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty. There are millions of poor people in this country who have very little, or even nothing, to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life…” – MLK, Massey Lectures (1967)
In November and December of 1967, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a 5-part lecture series for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Massey Lectures. He focused mainly on the violent summer of 1967 as it related to the deep contradictions facing society and the ongoing problems of poverty, systemic racism, and militarization. The “new and unsettling force” quote comes from the fourth lecture, “Nonviolence and Social Change,” where King puts forward a call for the leadership of the poor, across all lines that are used to divide us, to be a new and unsettling force. Today we are seeing these contradictions revealed and the devastating impact that an uncurbed pandemic and an economic crisis is having on the 140 million poor and low-income people that are made poor by a cruel and unjust system. Yet in the wake of these crises, poor people and moral leaders have been rising up. And in 2018 we launched a Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival with an understanding that we are the New Unsettling Force that have come forth to bring a new moral vision of the common good. It was in this spirit, as we launched 40 days of Moral Fusion Direct Action in the spring of 2018 that this song “New and Unsettling Force” was written. Written by Lu Aya of the Peace Poets and Charon Hribar of the Kairos Center. As leaders in 40 states came together in their state capitals and in Washington D.C. every Monday, this song was an affirmation and a reminder that we, the 140 million, are the force for change and we have nothing to lose – nothing to lose but our chains.