Martin Luther King Junior and Waddie Welcome have four things in common. One they both hail from Georgia. Two, Waddie died at the age of 87 on January 17th, a date now recognized as Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US.
There is a world wide movement arising around Waddie. (That's the third thing they have in common.) In and around January 17th, folks are gathering in coffee shops, living rooms, cafes, schools, and community centres to read the book, Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community. Check out the Waddie Welcome Facebook page.
He spent too many years living in institutions but rose to public prominence in his later years after he moved into the community. He became one of the ten most influential citizens of the decade in Savannah. Even though he didn't speak in a way most would understand he had a lot to say! This man managed to break through the barriers of discrimination, segregation, incarceration, poverty and illiteracy to assert his message. With a last name like Welcome, you can just imagine he oozed hospitality.
Martin Luther King had a desire for freedom. So did Waddie Welcome. And both in their unique ways left their communities substantially better. That's the fourth.
I encourage you to consider hosting or organizing a reading. There are tips on the Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community website. As major organizer Jack Pearpoint encourages: There will be readings around the globe – some large – some small – but living rooms and kitchens are perfect. It only takes an hour to read the book aloud – and then with tea and hospitality – some time to reflect. It makes for a wonderful afternoon or evening – and it's easy to organize.
Here's a video clip of 500 students at Armstrong Atlantic State University participating in a majestic reading last September.
WADDIE WELCOME and THE BELOVED COMMUNITY tells the story of friendships that transcended divisions of disability, race, and income and created powerful new possibilities in a whole community. Reflecting on the story of Mr Welcome and his friends is an ideal part of the celebration of Martin Luther King day.
These conversations, readings and discussions are yet another brainchild of Jack Pearpoint, Lynda Kahn and friends. Jack and Lynda have invented more concepts, created more resources and initiated more solutions to reducing isolation and inspiring inclusion than anyone I know.
You can purchase the book, Waddie Welcome and the Beloved Community from their Inclusion Press.