Today in the United States is a national holiday—Martin Luther King Day—a memorial observance and remembrance of the life and contributions to our society by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (and right).
Born January 15, 1929—yesterday would have been Dr. King’s 88th birthday—and assassinated April 4, 1968. He was only 39 years old when he was killed.
Dr. King was a man who was a Baptist minister. A man who was a husband and father, a family man. A man who saw injustice and discrimination for Black Americans and strove to eradicate it via the American Civil Rights Movement. A man who used his mind, his heart, and his commitment to societal change for the betterment for everyone through non-violent protest in the model of Mahatma Mohandas Ghandi.
He organized communities, he encouraged the Montgomery Bus Boycott started by Rosa Parks when she would not give up her seat on the bust to a white man, he marched on Washington, he prayed, he spoke with U.S. and worlds leaders, he sat in jail and wrote a letter (more about the letter here; and see video below)—and much much more. He had a dream (see video below) and shared it with the world. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 in recognition of his efforts and contributions. And he was not yet half done.
“Letter from Birmingham Jail” a video by Newseum
“Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have A Dream Speech”, a video by Ilya Gokadze
There were many who were leaders in the fight to abolish slavery in the U.S. over the centuries, and then leaders in the next generations in the 19th and 20th centuries and beyond– galvanized to seek full citizenship, full participation in society, full respect, and full voting rights for all, including U.S. Representative John Lewis.
So today and every year, we honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And we continue his cause for justice through new initiatives—such as the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM).
Our community recently organized a chapter of BLM to address the concerns of Black residents in our local community. I attended one BLM community forum a few weeks ago with over 400 other people of all ages, races, genders, and creeds at a local Black church where our local BLM chapter shared its purpose and goals, what some immediate concerns were for Black residents who felt they had been targeted by police and they shared their harrowing stories of harassment (DWB, etc). This event was further distinguished by our local Chief of Police—who is a Black man—who was invited to respond to each of the five areas of concern that the forum moderator put before him. With the Chief of Police relaying in response what his office was doing, what his office was prepared to do in the future, and what it was not prepared to do in the future. It was an important dialogue that is just the beginning of improving civic and resident relations in our community.
I am not a Black woman—and I have not experienced discrimination due to the color of my skin or my national origin. But I can still lend my support for improving racial equality as an “Ally”. My contributions are small in comparison to Dr. King’s—my marching around our county courthouse with other community members years ago (when my knees let me walk distances), my attending and participating in multi-cultural fairs over several decades (including annually creating over ten years of multi-cultural history exhibits about the contributions and achievements of Black Americans), mentoring women students of color over the years at our local university, giving my time to our local Boys & Girls Club over the years, and donating to the United Negro College Fund annually for about the last fifteen to twenty years, etc.
Why do I do it? I do it because it is the right thing to do—for myself, for my many friends who are Black, and for my family members who are Black. I want everyone to live and to be nurtured, to be safe, and to be respected in a society that values them and their contributions—for them to experience the promise of our constitution and of when our Declaration of Independence vows “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to its citizens.
So on this Martin Luther King Day observance, I honor him and his vision of a better and more inclusive world.