Why Honoring Dr Martin Luther King is suddenly important to me

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Pareto Realty TN #251071

I woke up inspired today and thought I would share this with you and the world.

For most of my life, the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King day was “just another day I didn’t have to go to school or work”. 

It just wasn’t important to me . . . because I was ignorant of the injustices Dr King spent his entire life “fighting” with love.


I was born in 1962 when Activism and War were at a fever pitch. Integration (Busing us children across town) started when I was in 4th grade. I went from the ultimate “childhood Leave it to Beaver neighborhood in Green Hills – Walking 2 blocks to school that was 100% white kids  . . . then to walking 2 blocks the opposite direction to get on a bus for 45 minutes and into a school that was 80% black in the middle of a sea of “housing projects” (Head Middle School).

I don’t remember being frightened in these foreign environs . . . I didn’t see “black” (or any other skin color) and kudos to my Mother who raised us kids and the children of SO many families as an “early Childhood Teacher” . . . I only saw “different” until I realized that we weren’t even different. We were 5th graders doing what 5th graders do, and none of it had anything to do with skin color or social status.

Many families participated in “White Flight” and enrolled their children in private schools to avoid this integration (Thus the HUGE number of private schools in Nashville). Many of my best friends were black and some of my white friends came from elite status (one was a son of a state Senator) – We all had a normal, integrated Middle School experience”. Our Principal at Head Middle was one of my first (and most influential) role models – Ms Rucker was a strong and gentle Leader of young people. I was a very active kid who didn’t cause a lot of trouble, but I was mischievous, so I sometimes had the “opportunity” to go to the Principal’s office. I LOVED being sent to see Ms Rucker. because she treated me as a person and never “broke me down”. Those 2 years at Head resulted in me not “seeing color” when it came to people . . . We are all just people.

This has served me well. I’ve never even thought of “Diversity” in terms of inclusiveness of those who are different than I because I know we are all just humans doing our best to make the most of what God bestowed upon us during our relatively short time while here on Earth. 

Protected classes”??? 

Unconscionable to this white boy from Tennessee . . .

Because I didn’t understand (nor see) the discrimination that Dr King so passionately faught with love, I’ve not read much of his writing (speaches) . . . until the past 3 years. 

What happened?


3 years ago, I re-engaged with the Open Space Technology community after 17 years of absence (why is a whole nother story for another time over a glass of gin). One of the first Open Space meetings” I attended was the Peace and High Performance gathering which happens annually on the weekend before the Dr Martin Luther King Day of observance.

I was asked to Open the space. During the days between my acceptance of opening that space and the day of the opening, I was thinking of this as “just another opening” so I prepared myself for a “by-the-book” opening.

On the morning of the Opening day, I woke up and commenced my “personal ritual” to prepare myself to be fully present . . . and something clicked as I was thinking about what I would say about the Theme “Practicing Peace and High Performance” on this significant weekend honoring Dr Martin Luther King” . . . That’s when it struck me – For the first time in my life, I felt the real significance of Dr Martin Luther King’s work. He was fighting a “good fight” against an angry and formidable force of humans who were facing huge change with sparse dignity.

I knew that, to do this opening of space authentically, I would need to incorporate Dr King’s words into the opening. Thank God for Google as I quickly found a few quotes from Dr King relevant to our theme.

This was a most difficult opening for me – Significance of Opening Space (Honoring the “discoverer” of Open Space Technology – My Father – Harrison Owen) amplified by an overwhelming sense of responsibility to appropriately Honor Dr King as well as the “venue” The International House in NYC. Somehow, I made it through the opening (very emotionally charged for me) even as I know that I omitted a few important segments of the opening . . .

I am ever thankful that Open Space always works, and the meeting was as perfect as it could have been.

I could not attend the Peace and High Performance this year – I had a clandestine plan to show up by surprise but that was thwarted by an unexpected health issue which forbade any travel for several weeks.

Whatever happens is the only thing that could have!

Dr King! It only took me 55 years to fully appreciate your amazing contribution to humanity.

Nobody could say this better than you:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.The time is always right to do what is right.”



Barry Owen

Strategist-CEO of Pareto Realty Real estate sales Professional Inviter-Facilitator-Practicer of Open Space Technology Opening safe space for people & organizations to self-organize around issues & opportunities BarryOwen.US Invite-Listen-Love 

Posted by

Barry Owen

Principal Broker
Pareto Realty
Nashville, TN

Call me: 615-568-2123
email me: barryo@comcast.net




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Comments (4)

Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Good afternoon Barry. This is some story and some awakening too. Congratulations.

Jan 20, 2020 11:48 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Hi Barry... loved reading your story. I was just one year from graduating from college the year he and Robert Kennedy were killed... so my perspective of those years after JFK was assassinated is obviously somewhat different from yours, as I was raised in a different time. I remember white flight all too well all around the NY/NJ areas in the 1960's and in many of the neighborhoods of NYC where I was raised.

Jan 20, 2020 12:24 PM
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Barry - a good story and wonderfully told.  You may not have seen/noticed the changes when they were occurring but your insight later proves to be a valuable "lesson".  

Jan 21, 2020 04:47 AM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

It is really odd, but yesterday I had a really special appreciation for Martin Luther King that surpassed what I had experienced in the past.  I concluded that we are dwelling in such politically charged and divisive times, that the peaceful methods that he espoused seem even more important now!  The country needs healing!

Jan 21, 2020 09:12 AM