In his iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,’ Martin Luther King spoke of the fierce urgency of now–the moral imperative to address injustice in the present as opposed to in some vague, ill-defined future. Further, in his masterpiece ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ he wrote that “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see…that ‘justice too long delayed in justice denied.’”
As the Executive Director of a small, rapidly growing non-profit, I often find myself trying to balance the imperative to solve problems today with the need to think strategically and build the infrastructure needed for scale and growth tomorrow. My obsession with the ‘fierce urgency of now,’ however, had until recently always been rooted in a firm belief that when we put off doing the right thing, we are in many ways creating excuses for denying justice. But recently I’ve been thinking more carefully about why the urgency of now is so ferocious, and I’ve come to a new conclusion: every day that goes by without us solving a problem, the harder that problem becomes to solve. To borrow the parlance of climate change mitigation we are, in effect, ‘locking in’ injustice for years, decades and centuries to come.