In January, I had the great honor to speak on a panel called “Advocacy in Action” at the University of Michigan.
I was invited back to Ann Arbor as part of a week-long celebration honoring the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The theme was “The Fierce Urgency of Now,” a speech given by MLK during the March on Washington.
I was joined by Steph White, Executive Director of Equality Michigan (an advocacy organization for LGBTQ rights) and William Hung (motivational speaker working to combat racial stereotypes against Asians).
The event held a very special place in my heart since 16 years ago to the day I had my left leg amputated on January 21, 2002, MLK Jr. Day.
Sharing this day with Dr. King was humbling, even healing. But more, it taught me an important lesson that freedom and sacrifice are inextricably linked.
On that day, I gave up my leg – my mobility and independence – in order to gain freedom from cancer. As my fellow panelists joined me on stage, I realized freedom in many forms is not without sacrifice, suffering, and struggle.
It is because of our sacrifices that we feel a fierce urgency to act.
Forrest Stump is my calling to act fiercely and urgently for the rights of amputees.
The Fierce Urgency of Now
When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the March on Washington, he described a “fierce urgency of now.” He reminded a divided nation that we need one another, and that we are stronger when we march forward, together.
During our panel, we were asked to share how “the fierce urgency of now” inspires the work we do today. I wanted to share a clip from my response:
It’s not a coincidence that we – myself, Steph, and William – are up here together today. Our urgency is deeply embedded in our identities: being disabled, LGBTQ, Asian.
In our lifetime, we have realized that certain freedoms, certain rights are not afforded to people like us.
We also realize that we’ve entered a crucial moment in our human history. A moment that draws many similarities to when MLK was alive.
To quote MLK himself, “If we do not act now, we will be dragged into a time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”
We have allowed our world today to be run by figures who lead without compassion, without morality, and without sight. These powers – the ones that value profit over human health and mobility – are the same powers that work against the LGBTQ community and people of color. If we do not act, they will continue to marginalize every community that is different.
Our disadvantages, our discriminations, our struggles, and our suffering are interconnected. The powers that are against one of us, are against all of us.
What if we were to measure our collective sacrifice? Would we then have a much fiercer urgency to act?