Today marks the remembrance of a legacy that has symbolically spoken for the disenfranchisement of many peoples and realistically impacted the lives of millions of Americans.
Since 1983, the United States government has deemed every third Monday of each January Martin Luther King Jr. Day to celebrate the life and work of one of the nation’s most honorable Civil Rights leaders. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Tennessee. The African-American community was shook, and Americans pushed for a day to be recognized in his honor. By 1970, some cities began celebrating January 15th, King’s birthday, as a holiday until the federal government finally observed a holiday for him. The first Martin Luther King Jr. Day was commemorated in 1986, and today marks the 25th year that he will be honored.
Many people may wonder why the nation observes and celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day? What should we do as a society on this day? First and foremost, we commemorate this day to honor King’s work and memory. It is because of people like him and other civil rights leaders that King African-Americans have been afforded the multitude of opportunities that they have today. He stood for not only blacks but for all people, including the disadvantaged and impoverished, and believed in the power of a divisive society creating a unified society, of bloody riots being transformed into peaceful gatherings. He believed in the power of non-violent demonstrations and the power in words, which his still reverberate softly in our memories to this day. It is important to remember that the fight for solidarity and against discrimination is not over; we have come a long way, which is marked by iconic points and leaders in our history, but surely do have more work to be done.
This is why Martin Luther King Jr. Day should be a day on rather than a day off. One of King’s most prized and precious beliefs were a socialized ideal of working together to create a “beloved community”. A community in which all people would work together, despite the historical divides that have been socially constructed through race. A community that would work to diminish those divisive powers and work in unity towards making the world a better place. Choose to honor King’s legacy on this day by being active in your community and volunteering with a non-profit organization, church, or community function. Often times, our lives leave us busy and unaware of the needs that lie within our own communities. Use this day not only as one to reflect on King’s legacy but to act on it as well.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.