Engraved on the south wall of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorial in Washington D.C. is his quote: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
This sentiment is what I am especially holding onto today—Valentine’s Day.
During the last month, I have thought of this quote often as we have witnessed our country’s leaders malign entire nations and religions, make harmful rhetoric a regular component of our national discourse, and try to make blatant lies believable by passing them off as “alternative facts.”
None of us have a clear blueprint for how to navigate this new reality of one volatile crisis after another. As I move heavy-hearted through each day, I have tried to look to these pillars Dr. King laid out for guidance.
Every other time our communities have experienced moments like this, we have joined arms and rooted ourselves in unconditional love and mutual support. Together, we have had the strength to continue creating a world based in these principles.
In this moment, as we did in those, we must remember that there is no safety in silence, or in waiting apart on the sidelines.
We cannot allow walls to be constructed between us or borders to be built around us. We cannot allow people to be targeted for who they are or who they love.
I know that just saying these words will not make these convictions become reality. We all must find ways to continue to show up, over and over again, for those whose lives are being threatened and for the values we hold most dear.
Cornel West famously said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”
This Valentine’s Day, in a world where anxiety and animosity have become commonplace in our daily lives, his words feel both like a call to action and the only true path forward.
We must be unwavering and vigilant in our response to all attacks on anyone’s humanity. We must continue to act up—with phone calls, at demonstrations, with conversations, for fundraisers, through art, and in all of the actions we carve out each day to raise up the values of love and truth.
We must advocate strongly for all students to have access to affirming learning environments when the new administration threatens protections for transgender youth in our public schools. We must actively declare our love is both legal and legitimate to the legislators in Idaho trying to change the state’s tax code to not recognize same-sex marriages. We must stand firm in our belief that every person deserves the opportunity to live openly and safely as opponents of equality in Washington work to gather signatures to put an initiative on the ballot that targets transgender people.
We must continue showing up. Last week, Pride Foundation launched a Rapid Response Fund that will provide critical and timely support to groups responding to emerging threats against our community. We committed $25,000 to seed this fund and asked each of you to consider making an investment with us—because it will take every single one of us to protect our progress in this climate of hate and fear.
Ultimately, all of the actions we take in moments like this to lift up our shared humanity will move us along the path toward justice. Because they are, fundamentally, acts of unconditional love.
Kris Hermanns is Pride Foundation’s CEO. Email Kris.