To celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I will be dedicating today’s post to what has become a national holiday: Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To start off, Dr. King’s birthday was on the 15th, and if he were still with us, he would be 92 this year. However, the day of remembrance is held on the third Monday in January, regardless of which date it falls on the calendar year.
Ronald Reagan signed it into law in 1983, and the first observance of it came in 1986. Prior to that, labor unions had been advocating Dr. King’s remembrance day as a national holiday by calling for people not to work on the day as a sign of solidarity. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, there was some clapback from some states, who tried to combine it with other holidays, and even tried renaming it. This made the year 2000 as the year of the first nationwide observance.
I remember hearing a lot about Dr. King in school, especially around this time of year. We’d read books about him, and do in-class assignments about the books and have a unit on the Civil Rights Movement. Beyond that, there wasn’t much else.
I volunteered as a reading tutor at an elementary school one year in college, and we read Martin’s Big Words. After we finished the book, we talked about the takeaways from it, and a lot of the kids had some pretty insightful things to say about it. None of them racist or prejudiced, that’s for sure. All of them were sad to hear about the way Dr. King and others were treated, and that it was based solely on their ethnicity and heritage, and their looks.
All the kids talked about what they’d have done back then if they were there. I often think about what I’d have done back then if I were alive. I think a lot of us do, not just during the Civil Rights Movement, but in other facets of history as well.
This is one of the things that I saw another blogger post about in the wake of what happened to George Floyd. They mentioned that they thought a lot about what they’d have done back then, but then they brought up a great question: “What am I doing now, in this Civil Rights Movement?”
That’s indeed the question we should be asking ourselves. We need to focus on what we’re doing in the here and now, in this Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King advocated nonviolence and civil disobedience, and I feel like this is the best way to honor him. He led marches and demonstrations for desegregation, changes to labor laws, and the right to vote for African Americans. He also spearheaded the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 after police arrested Rosa Parks for not giving up her seat on the bus for a white man.
How can we make Dr. King’s dream of equality for everyone, regardless of their heritage and identity, come true?
Great question! We can start by continuing to keep the momentum of his work moving forward. We have to keep moving forward, like he said in a quote one time. There’s no going back, no way, not ever.
We can also contribute by buying from Black-owned businesses. It’s always good to support small businesses, because it keeps money within our local communities, and more importantly, we want to see them succeed.
We can also read reputable books and sources to stay in the know, so we can push back against racist and prejudiced ideas. We can also pass our knowledge to our friends and family. The Internet Archive has come out with a great list on anti-racist reading materials. They even say that where possible, buy these from a Black-owned bookstore. I agree. [EDIT, 12-1-2021: This link is showing up as broken, so in the meantime, the link is off the site. However, I’ve included it in the comments below for posterity.]
Let’s make Dr. King’s dream of the day where “this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its’ creed, we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal” a reality. Let’s honor his legacy not just today, but every day. Today is a day we give back, since it’s also the National Day of Service 2021.
Over to you, readers. What are you doing today to honor Dr. King? What’s your favorite quote by him? Got a favorite book about him? Whatever it is, drop it like it’s hot below, and let’s talk.