Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

Categories: The Insider

Happy MLK Day! 

As I prepare for what is in my opinion one of the most moving and humanitarian events in the life of Americans – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – I can only reflect back to the real reason why we celebrate the holiday in the first place. 

As a union activist, I think that the timing is right for a celebration, given all of the attacks we are facing throughout America. 

Today should be a call to activism! We must continue to fight for the same issues that Dr. King sought to change. 

Dr. King’s Day is a time to honor and remember Dr. King himself and his calls for justice as a civil rights leader. 

This year will mark the 25th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates the civil rights leader’s life and legacy. 

Dr. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. The campaign for a federal holiday in Dr. King’s honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later. 

At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000. 

This day is observed each year on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off.” MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. 

As we reflect on this holiday, we would do well to remember this quote from Coretta Scott King’s 1983 piece “How We Can Observe This Holiday”: “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 progress.” 

We cannot limit Dr. King’s message to our own space or to the month of January. We should not overuse images of Dr. King delivering a speech to a crowd; profile images; or images of King pointing upward toward the light. 

Let’s not forget that Dr. King’s message went beyond “black and white” issues – he also dealt with issues of gendered stereotypes, poverty, and privilege. 

Let’s not limit our actions to listening to the famous sermons and quotes. Our actions should go beyond that and enter into real service, real human service. 

Let’s teach about the life and legacy of Dr. King as a part of our regular routine. There will be any number of events performed by all people in honor of the great leader this weekend. 

If there is a scripture that represents the life of Dr. King, it is John 15:13 and I quote, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” 

What an awesome display of solidarity and unionism. 

Let’s celebrate by showing a genuine display of LOVE, not HATE. 

Happy MLK Day!

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