The third Monday of January is dedicated to the remembrance of civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King’s message of social justice and nonviolent protests to enact change provides a reminder to us all. In 1983, Ronald Reagan signed the legislation to designate this day as a federal holiday. Years later, Congress declared it a day of service for Americans to improve their communities.
In 1983, Cornetta Scott King wrote in the Washington Post her vision for honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
“The holiday must be substantive as well as symbolic. It must be more than a day of celebration… Let this holiday be a day of reflection, a day of teaching nonviolent philosophy and strategy, a day of getting involved in nonviolent action for social and economic process.”
In order to celebrate, many Americans donate their time to their communities through service. This Wall Street Journal article shows how people have observed their day of service and honored Dr. King. While most communities have service events on January 18, contact local animal shelters, hospitals, and other organizations to find a way to give back throughout the year. Here is an article with three websites that connect to service opportunities.
May this month prompt us to act. Reach out to elders within your community and listen to their personal reflections, especially about the Civil Rights Movement. Everyone has a story and a memory to share. Hearing other's reflections can help you reflect on your experiences. While progress has been made, acknowledging that racism, inequalities, and biases are present in society is important. To learn more about bias, explore this article from Harvard University.
If you work with or have children, here are some guidelines for celebrating and discussing the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. as well as the civil rights movement.
Even as this national holiday has passed, take time to reflect and to serve in order to better your community.