January 18, 2021
Dear Sportsmen’s Friends,
At this time last year, Sportsmen’s Juniors gathered nervously on court 5, dressed in black and white, and prepared to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s concept of Beloved Community. In years past, they’ve recited Dr. King’s iconic I Have A Dream speech, envisioned a dialogue between Dr. King and Arthur Ashe, and created and shared a pictorial biography of a life cut far too short.
Today we reflect on Dr. King in a different way, in separate spaces, but our reflections may never have been so crucial.
What would Dr. King say about 2020? How would he help us come to terms with the loss of life attributed to a worldwide pandemic, the need to prove that Black Lives Matter 57 years after I Have A Dream, and an insurrection in our nation’s capital, stoked by none other than the president of the United States?
For decades, Sportsmen’s has honored the memory of Dr. King by bringing our youth together with caring adults, on and off the courts, to help them understand that the most sincere way to honor Dr. King – his memory, life and work, his beliefs, values and teachings – is to continually develop their own characters so that they live every day seeking and building the society he described as Beloved Community.
Dr. King defined Beloved Community as a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of one’s fellow human beings. The Beloved Community is a society with no discrimination, where everyone is embraced, and where all people can share in the wealth of the earth. Poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated. If you missed the Sportsmen’s Juniors sharing Dr. King’s concepts of Beloved Community at the conclusion of the 2020 Virtual Sportsmen’s Tennis Ball, you can watch it here.
So where do we go from here? I can’t begin to surmise how Dr. King would set out to once again methodically calm and yet stir up a nation, to see each other as equals and yet compel us to realize there is uniqueness in each of us that is the source of our strength as a community, as a country. Many of us are struggling daily with our own basic needs and can’t begin to fathom our own roles in building community.
I originally titled this note ‘ rebuilding’ beloved community, but I have to believe that any elements of beloved community that truly existed prior to this difficult year have survived. They may be obscured by the painful shadows of lost loved ones, or buried under the weight of injustice, but if we ever thought we saw a glimpse of beloved community in a kind act, a thoughtful gesture or a timey hug, we need only cling to that memory as our source of strength as we usher in this new year, with new promise and another chance to show Dr. King that we still hear his call. We thank you for continuing to be part of the Sportsmen’s community, surrounding and nourishing our youth as they take up his battle as their own.
Wishing you a thoughtful and encouraging Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, and safe and healthy 2021.
Chief Executive Officer
Sportsmen’s Tennis & Enrichment Center
CarGuru’s People of Color Network interviews Sportsmen’s CEO Toni Wiley about the importance of Dr. King’s messaging in 2021.