One Word Interview: Freedom

Martin Luther King Day celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr — one of the greatest civil rights leaders in U.S. history. No matter your race, color, creed, or gender, much of the freedom you have today was made possible by the work of Dr. King and activists like him who fought for the rights of every man, woman, and child. Therefore, January’s One Word Interview is dedicated to this special man. Writers from different walks of life, backgrounds, and generations have come together here to share what FREEDOM means to them, to us.

So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!  (*)

Martin Luther King, Jr., from


Some questions about FREEDOM:
Can you have “freedom” in a society run by plutocrats and multi-national corporations? “Freedom” for whom? First-worlders who live in suburban developments and drive fancy cars and practice fancy yoga? What about free ownership of land, agricultural and mineral resources for the people who live around the world? Malcolm X always criticized the U.S. Civil Rights movement for not being tied to international solidarity struggles against colonialism and Western financial and political incursions into the developing world. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to agree with him. Both men were silenced but the dream lives on.
~ Kazim Ali – author, poet, teacher

Freedom is a circle without circumference. What individuals don’t understand is that we have freedom only in proportion to our level of responsibility. What repressive societies don’t understand is that life is chaotic, and will not be contained. Grayhairs quake in fear, but their children are born dreaming of wings.
~ Steven Barnes, novelist, screenwriter, life coach

When I think of freedom I don’t think of the Earth, I think of the sky and the stars and the worlds beyond and of coasting, flying untethered in distant atmospheres. And I think of all those who sacrificed so that I could give voice to those imagined places.
~ Jenn Brissett – writer, artist, bookseller, web developer

In the Due household—headed by civil rights activists John Due and Patricia Stephens Due—my sisters Johnita, Lydia and I learned Freedom every day. Freedom meant knowing where we had come from and where we were going. Freedom meant honoring the foot soldiers. Freedom in the air we breathed.
~ Tananarive Due – novelist, writer [Co-author of Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights (with Patricia Stephens Due)]

Freedom is the ultimate prize of an internal battle we wage daily to find the best in ourselves, to act out of our deepest convictions, with no expectation of any reward beyond the satisfaction of staying true to our core values.
~ Aaron Hamburger – essayist, novelist, teacher

Want freedom? Hunker down. Say nothing. And for God’s sake, no eye contact.
~ Carlos Hernandez – writer

Freedom. Making my own decisions, creative or otherwise. Knowing my fellow human beings can do the same. Working together as individuals when we share goals and working alone when I need to go my own way. I’m big on doing unto others as I want them to do unto me.
~ Tony Isabella – comic book writer, editor, artist, critic

FREEDOM–I can write what I want, read what I want, watch what I want, say what I want, do what I want and go where I want and there ain’t a DAMN thing you can do about it.
~ Georgia McBride, novelist, founder [author of the forthcoming series PRAEFATIO]


two wings flying sans their seagull
the last push of a first time mother

calloused heels crossing mason-dixon
follow the goatskin thunder of the mountain heart

the little hands tracing big-dipper dreams
with a lotus balanced on the palms
also count the infinite space that frames the stars

Nelly Rosario – novelist, poet, teacher

When I think of Freedom, I think of being left the hell alone by the busy, buzzing, bullshitting lunacy of the world– and being able to spend time with friends, beloveds, good music, and restless poems that renew and electrify the soul. That’s what this life is for!
~ Tim Seibles – poet, writer, teacher


Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

Martin Luther King Jr - photo from MLK Online

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Martin Luther King, Jr (*) – activist, leader, humanitarian


(*) MLK Online, “I Have a Dream” (excerpt)

About Erin Underwood

BIO: Erin Underwood is the senior event content producer for MIT Technology Review’s emerging technology events. On the side, she reads, writes, and edits SF.
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