Martin Luther King Jr. Day gives us a chance to reflect on one of history’s consequential leaders.
Committed to ending African Americans’ status as second-class citizens in their own country, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. advanced the worldwide cause of human rights. In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
King’s activism was revolutionary: use love and pacifism to create social change. This MLK Day, connect with him and his message of peace and take it out into the world through these five paths:
1. Read His Work
Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech produced many catchphrases, but his other writings have equal power. Check out his “Letter to Coretta,” written in October 1960 from Reidsville State Prison or the text of his speech “Our God is Marching On” which Dr. King delivered on March 25, 1965, from the steps of the Alabama State House after leading thousands on a march from Selma to Alabama’s capital.
2. Read Works That Inspired Him
King’s views on nonviolent resistance were shaped during his doctoral studies at Boston University by Henry Thoreau’s 1849 essay “Civil Disobedience”, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and the life and oeuvre of Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, who King met in India in 1959. So head to the library or fire up your tablet – today is a great today to read the writings of the thinkers who got MLK going.
3. Screen Selma
Ava Duvernay’s Oscar-nominated 2014 film is a perfect movie night choice. Selma dramatizes the events leading to King’s march on Montgomery and its aftermath. Besides vividly portraying the violence Alabama officials unleashed on “Bloody Sunday” and passage of the Voting Rights Act, Selma renders King and company in intimately human terms.
Screening the film is a great segue into our next suggestion:
4. Talk With One Another
“Love,” Dr. King said, “is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” A group dialogue is a great way to begin such transformations by bringing together people from varied backgrounds in a formal setting to talk about their experiences with privilege, bias, and intolerance. Facilitators help participants find healthy ways to communicate and solve problems, carrying on Dr. King’s pursuit of social justice through love, understanding, and friendship.
5. Help Out
In many jurisdictions, MLK Day is a holiday. It’s also a National Day of Service that brings together volunteers on projects undertaken to honor Dr. King’s memory. Find MLK volunteer events in your area here. By registering online, you can sign up for a project you care about, like serving a meal to the homeless or planting a community garden.
Happy MLK Day!