Photo of fire from Wiki Commons
Photo of fire from Wiki Commons

Only the fires of our revolutionary love can drive the cooling hate of oppression

Briana L. Urena-Ravelo
4 min readJan 18, 2021

Today is MLK Jr. day, and it is likely by now you have already seen these words of his in emails and across your social media feed at least a dozen times:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

This quote comes from a sermon called “Loving Your Enemies” that MLK jr. gave at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama in 1957. An entire eleven years before he was murdered by the United States government with support from many of its white citizens. It’s one of his quote most fetishized and taken outside of a larger context of body of work, outside of an increasing radicalizing politic that Dr. King would come to especially near the end of his life.

The quote, and the whitewashing industrial complex and disinfo campaign around it, is so indicative of the gaslighting, colonial, white violence of the Christianity that was first forced on my ancestors and pushed on us over the centuries. They told us “Do not join together and avenge yourselves with the sword, with revolution, but love your oppressors. In fact, we will call your advocacy for yourself and your uprising ‘hate’ and teach you to see your own liberation as a dark, despicable thing.” They made us “love” those who hated us the most and never once over centuries showed us any measure of kindness or hint of ceasing in their never ending violence, and to hate the one thing that is actually the most radical act of self-love, our liberation from their shackles.

So today I will honor the quote for what it is in its context, and while I may disagree with what it meant in 1957, I also know there’s more to it. That it is not a holistic look into neither the politic nor spirituality of MLK Jr. especially in the years that came since. And even if we were to still disagree, which I can do easily while yet respecting his work and true legacy, I will not let white cooption further stoke unrest and division in our rich legacies of resistance. I take something to heart from this quote today that I’ll share with you that I feel is yet inspired by MLK Jr.’s vigilant, present and tireless love.

Today I will not eschew love or talk down this quote for how it mischaracterizes love. I will not let wretched colonizers who do not know the first thing about love take it from me and turn me upon myself and my potential for love. Instead I will talk dearly about the revolutionary love I know and wish to feed.

May my love be a light like an inescapable fire that burns and torches all oppression, hegemony and violence like tinder, the undoing and destruction of which feeding and creating a rich fertile soil from which to grow more love anew.

May my love be a comforting igniting flame in the hearts of all the downtrodden and forgotten, the erased and maligned, may it be a whisper to light it up, fight, go, go! I love you, dearly, and I strive for our victory in the struggle against our upheaval.

May my love be hateful, scornful, painful and anathema to all enemies of the people! Maybe it bring them only suffering and devastation! Maybe it be endlessly disagreeble to sanitization and cooption, a recipe to disaster from those who wish to capture or use the light to their own greedy, nullifying ends.

I shirk the freezing darkness of obedience, patriotism, imperialism, capitalism, patriarchy, supremacy, middling tolerance and acceptance, empty liberal equality, deadly assimilation, hollow words of “love” from the rotting mouths of power. They know nothing of love, so deep in the darkness, they hate and scorn the warm of our fires. My love burns and rips through the darkness!

The warmth of our liberation is their enemy! The collective fires of our love a bitter medicine to their coldness, so white and pale from having avoided the sun for so long.

May my fire through all my years and even when I am tired, even when it has at times burned me out, even after I am gone, never extinguish, forever tended to and carried by the next generations as it was carried by those before me. May every day I find rest and reprieve to carry or sit by the fire how best I can at any given time. May I always keep watch and add another ember to the fire, growing and stoking the light to immeasurable heights!

This is my love, generational and wizened, exacting and sure, energizing and gentle, enduring and inextinguishable, insatiable and hungering, bountiful and generative, comforting and cruel, all at once. This, this light, we deserve this light. It is a powerful love. And it will drive out the darkness.

May the fires of this love be a light and make a way to a brighter free future.



Briana L. Urena-Ravelo

Writer. Community organizer. Errant punk. Ne’er do well. Fire starter. Email: