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City Year Founding Story: The Beloved Community

Art by Chris Barret

Desegregation is only a partial, though necessary, step toward the ultimate goal which we seek to realize. Desegregation will break down legal barriers, and bring men together physically. But something must happen so as to touch the hearts and souls of men that they will come together, not because the law says it, but because it is natural and right. In other words, our ultimate goal is integration which is genuine intergroup and interpersonal living.

Only through nonviolence can this goal be attained, for the aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of the beloved community.

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1958

I do not think of political power as an end. Neither do I think of economic power as an end. They are ingredients in the objective that we seek in life. And I think that end or that objective is a truly brotherly society, the creation of the beloved community.

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., July 13, 1966

The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community.

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., December 3, 1956

Among Dr. King’s most compelling visions is that of a Beloved Community—a community in which people of different backgrounds recognize that we are all interconnected and that our individual well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of others. Dr. King knew that the goal of social change is not tolerance alone, or even the recognition or enforcement of human or civil rights, or an improved economic condition. These are necessary but not sufficient steps in the path to human progress. We cannot rest until we have bridged the divides of prejudice and mistrust that lie within the human head and heart. Invariably, these final, resilient divisions are social and personal. Dr. King reminds us that reconciliation is a both a process and a final destination. The road to the Beloved Community is the difficult road of reconciliation among people who have been in conflict and negotiation. The Beloved Community is reconciliation achieved—a profound human connectedness, a transcendent harmony and love among all people.

About the Photographer: Chris Barret was a City Year AmeriCorps member from Long Island, New York who served at a school in East New York, Brooklyn. The Beloved Community was inspired by the residents of East New York. Chris dedicated it to them, City Year New York, and his teammates.