The setting sun falls behind the Shelby County Courthouse. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

It’s becoming more evident to me that America is much better at capitalism than it is at democracy. 

And yet, somehow, this week, I’m feeling hopeful.

I’m in the midst of reading the second book in my Summer reading challenge, the one for my brain, “Becoming Abolitionists.” A tweet led me to a piece from The Emancipator making the case for overhauling the constitution. On a drive, I listened to a segment on NPR’s “The Takeaway” that featured one of the founders of Freedom, Georgia and the quest to build a Black utopia. Over dinner, a friend told me about One Project; a nonprofit meant to support communities to design and implement new forms of equitable, ecological and effector governance and economics.

All of these things, I realized, are about people reimagining our world. It’s an acknowledgment that it doesn’t have to be this way. There is always space for us to rethink the things we think we know to be true. There is always a possibility for change. 

The people trying to take us backward with such ferocity or keep us where we are must be met with equal strength.

This isn’t breaking news. But it’s nice to be reminded sometimes that you’re not alone in this struggle, that you’re not insane. Reimagining our world is happening in many places, in different ways. That’s why the pushback is so intense.

I watched a webinar, too, hosted by the Gifts of Life Social Justice and Public Advocacy Institute. It’s part of a series, but this one was about safety and the Supreme Court. There were many gems in this discussion, but one particularly valuable thing was said by the host Rev. Andre E. Johnson, a University of Memphis professor who led weekly rallies to #FreePervisPayne. 

Dr. Andre Johnson (center) speaks at a press conference outside of the Shelby County Justice Center before a January hearing in the trial of Pervis Payne. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

If you view the social justice movement as a tree, he said, “the lowest hanging fruit is voting.” 

Voting, he continued, is the foundational piece; it’s not the end all be all. But you’ve got to have someone in place, someone to work with, or even, more cynically, to work against. 

That means voting is reimagining work too. In this election, we can move toward a different way of treating our children. We can decrease the many ways our legal systems criminalize poverty. 

If we want to stop dreaming of a system that works for everyone, voting is the least we can do. You can vote now, early, through July 30 or on Election Day Aug. 4. We can help others understand the significance of their vote and help get them to the polls, too.

As our namesake preached, “Keep moving amid every obstacle. Keep moving amid every mountain of opposition.”

Maybe then, we can get as good at getting equity as we are at getting money. 

Adrienne Johnson Martin is executive editor of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. Contact her at

This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and policy in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by these generous donors.

Got a story idea, a tip or feedback? Send an email to