Wake Up to Injustice

Gail Forsyth-Vail

This story was created collaboratively by several religious educators. As you prepare to share it, read the 1966 Ware Lecture "Don't Sleep Through the Revolution," by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Hollywood, Florida, May 18, 1966.

There was a man named Rip van Winkle who liked to share stories and was kindly to children, but he avoided hard work or anything he thought unpleasant. One day, as the story goes, he found a nice grassy place on a mountain and he fell fast asleep. But this was no ordinary nap. Rip Van Winkle slept for over 20 years!

Twenty years!!! What do you suppose he missed [take several answers]. As a matter of fact, the most important thing that Rip Van Winkle missed was the American Revolution. When he went up the mountain, he lived in a British colony. When he came down 20 years later, he lived in the new United States.

This is an old and famous story, but would you be surprised to know that it was a favorite of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King? It is one he told a lot. As a matter of fact, he told it to a huge crowd of Unitarian Universalists in 1966, about 50 years ago. He talked about the Civil Rights movement, and urged all those who heard him to wake up, to not sleep through the big changes that were happening all around as Black people and their supporters worked to gain equality rights. He asked white people in particular not to be asleep and ignore injustice. He urged people to Wake Up!

Well, in the last few months a new set of leaders from the People of Color community are sending the same message Dr. King sent 50 years ago, "Wake Up! Many of the injustices- much of the unfairness- is still here. And there are some new injustices. Wake up!"
So I’m going to ask you to help me deliver this message to the Unitarian Universalists who are sitting right here in the sanctuary with us. Can you help me wake everyone up? Let’s practice saying, “Wake Up to Injustice!” [Say this with them a couple of times, and invite the children to be loud! On the third try, invite the whole congregation to join you.]

And many people who have not been paying attention, who have been "asleep" are waking up to injustice thanks to the new young leaders. We'll talk more about waking up in our RE groups, and perhaps you may want to talk with your families about times when they have "woken up" to injustice- and perhaps are "waking up" even today.

[Congregation sings “Oh I Woke Up This Morning” #153 as the children leave.]