Every third Monday in January honors the birthday of the civil rights activist, leader, and orator, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The journey to true equality among all races is still incomplete, but MLK’s historic contributions to racial justice for Black Americans are undeniable. Although schools or businesses may close for this holiday, it is by no means a day off. It’s a day to recognize nationwide service that honor’s Dr. King’s values and his role in American history.
According to Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s wife, “This is not a Black holiday; it’s a people’s holiday.” It’s a day to unite for equality, kindness, peace, and love. By honoring these values, we can rise above and become better as people. Depending on the state of COVID-19 in your city or state, in-person events may not be possible, but you can still celebrate MLK Day in a meaningful way.
It’s rare that you learn about history from all sides, especially when it comes to the topic of race in America. One area of the country might learn one thing, while another area grows up with a completely different view. It’s ultimately your responsibility to have a good understanding why there is a day dedicated to MLK. To honor his life, read some of King’s books or read books about him, and attempt to read the ones written by Black authors. Take note of his letters and explore his radical ideology. You may find that you learn things that were never taught in history classes.
Do Something Good
There are many ways to do good in today’s day and age. You can donate to a cause that advocates nonviolent social change or volunteer at an organization. The Smithsonian Institution and Library of Congress, for example, looks for volunteers to digitally transcribe documents. Projects range from African-American history and women’s suffrage to the personal letters of historical figures like MLK. If you feel uneasy about volunteering in-person because of COVID-19 numbers, research virtual opportunities. The Corporation for National and Community Service allows you to find local volunteer opportunities on MLK Day.
Talk To Your Elders
For Black Americans, especially people with relatives who grew up in the South, talking to older family members can be an eye-opening experience. Many people have grandparents who are living history, protested with Dr. King, or watched the broadcast of his historical March on Washington. Make an effort to reach out to these family members, be it on the phone or in-person. Open up an honest dialogue about the past and you may learn something new about your family history.
Create Something That Inspires Conversation
Although MLK delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech nearly 60 years ago, his words are just as relevant today. Reflecting on his message of peace and equality may help us imagine a brighter future of positivity. One exercise you can do is write your dreams into existence. Do this in any way that you see fit. Incorporate drawing, painting, or collage into this exercise. As long as you have paper and something to draw/write with, you can make it happen. Encourage children to take part in this project as well, as critical thinking can bring about more social change.
Join The “March”
In 1963, MLK led a monumental protest of 250,000 people on Washington. All of them believed in one thing: the civil and economic rights for Black Americans. It was before this sea of supportive people that he delivered the “I Have A Dream” speech, cementing his support of the civil rights movement. Although everyone in the United States doesn’t have the luxury of hitting the sidewalk in D.C., you can “march” in your own way. Whether you participate in a parade in your community, attend a virtual parade, or go on a peace walk through your neighborhood, you have the power to march in Dr. King’s honor.