Last weekend over 20 New York City organizations co-sponsored a love rally in Washington Square Park to fight radical hate with radical love. Radical love means love for our common humanity or love for our Muslim, Black, Asian, Latino, and Native American brothers and sisters; love for our LGBT and gender non-conforming family members and friends; love for our immigrant, disabled, poor, and working-class mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. Radical love means, in other words, love for all those who have been dehumanized by a capitalist and patriarchal culture that divides the world into those who are human and those who are not, and puts those who are white, rich, male, straight, American or European on top of the hierarchy of humanness. Evidence of this hierarchy of humanness is found in our everyday lives. We mourn, for example, with the French and the Belgian, as indeed we should, when terrorists attack, but we don't mourn with the Syrians, the Nigerians, the Turkish, or the Iraqis. We talk about excluding Muslims from our country when it is Muslim communities who are suffering the most from terrorism.
The aim of our love rally was not to overlook such dehumanization, but to directly address it by insisting on our common humanity, and demand that our political leaders lead with love rather than with hate and violence. Leaders of love include Martin Luther King, Jr. who linked love and justice, and who insisted that we cannot have justice without love or love without justice. Leaders of love also include Germany's leader Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who have welcomed Syrian refugees into their countries and who, in the case of Trudeau, have given them citizenship, health insurance, food, and housing. Merkel and Trudeau understand that we must reach out to refugees rather than ban them if we are going to effectively fight terrorism. Trudeau also leads with love when he says he is a feminist, and he won't stop saying it until no one is surprised. He leads with love when he tells the world economic forum that he wants a Canada in which children know as much about Christmas as they do about Ramadan. This is what it means to lead with love.
We had a love rally to demand that we, as a country, begin to lead with love and focus on building more inclusive and loving communities in order to effectively address terrorism, police violence, sexual assault, mass violence, suicide, war, and even climate change. Only when we understand, as Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Merkel, and Justin Trudeau did and do, that we cannot continue to respond to hatred and violence with more hatred and violence if we want to prevent hate and violence. We must respond with love for our common humanity so that we can create a more just and humane society.
At the love rally, we heard the voices of love from student activists, interfaith leaders, spoken word poets, 7th and 8th graders from George Jackson Academy and United Nations International School, a gospel choir, musicians, educators, and community leaders. We plan to make this rally an annual event in April and take back the other love day (i.e., Valentine's day) from the corporations that sell us "love." Other cities have already expressed their intent to have their own love rallies. Join us in our efforts to speak truth to power and power to love.
Niobe Way is the founder of the Project for the Advancement of Our Common Humanity (PACH; pach.org) and a professor of developmental psychology at New York University.