This past Monday marked the 33rd celebration of Martin Luther King (MLK) Day as a national day of observance in the United States (U.S.). The day, which honors civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was signed into effect in 1983 but began being practiced in the U.S. in 1986 and since then has been celebrated as a national day of service in honor of Dr. King (Time).
Whereas some view this national holiday day as just a day off from work, others, primarily social justice activists and communities of color, do not just view MLK Day as a day but a weekend of action, a weekend of love, compassion, and care for the welfare of marginalized communities like Dr. King and so many of the different activists that stood by his side. Therefore, MLK Day is usually not limited to just one day of celebration but a weekend filled with various community engagement activities. Once MLK weekend is over and everyone goes back to their regular activities, as a community we should ask ourselves, what more can we be doing? Change is not easy but the more we look away, the worse our neighborhoods become, which makes change the only necessary solution.
“MLK Day” should not just be a day or weekend but the start of a year-long commitment for communities to improve their neighborhoods by fostering love, peace, and compassion throughout the year. We owe it to those who fought for our rights and pursuit of happiness to pick up the torch of justice and light a path of hope for the future generations of activists, artists, policymakers, teachers, and doctors, who are growing up in dangerous, under-served neighborhoods; these individuals deserve to grow up in a community that protects instead of harm them. To remember Dr. King we need to ask ourselves, “how will we be advocates of change in our community throughout the ENTIRE YEAR?” The social health of underserved communities of color in the U.S. is appalling especially when we consider the occurrence of literary and food deserts, the limited amount of local businesses present in these neighborhoods, the quality of schools, and the high crime rate. Therefore, on MLK Day let’s do more because our communities need us to do more. In the words of Dr. King, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” therefore let’s not sit in silence as our communities deteriorate. Let’s commit to sustainable change, growth, and compassion by working alongside one another throughout the year.
Photo credit: TIME Magazine