Letter to the editor: Ideas for observing the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday


January 18, 2021 will mark the 35th anniversary of the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Since 1986, this day not only recognizes Dr. King’s contributions to promoting racial equality and civil rights, but also as a Day of Service. This day helps to raise awareness, mobilize volunteers and provide all of us with an opportunity to engage and build new connections, reconnect with existing relationships, support nonprofits and strengthen communities. In more recent years, we have seen the positive influences of this day resonate in the workplace and in government entities.

The Civil Rights movement largely focused on racial inequality, but over time we have seen other marginalized communities (race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic, disabilities) take hold and work together to promote equality and equity for all.

To ignore that inequality and inequity exist in all communities is a disservice. To deny that those with privilege benefit from said inequality and inequity widens the opportunity gaps.

While much has changed and progressed during this time, it is evident there is still a long way to go. A busy, distracted society can contribute to overlooking what has been in front of us. It has taken a global pandemic to make us all stop, take a breath and look at our immediate surroundings to really see what is happening around us. It has been eye opening. It has been uncomfortable. It has been fertile ground for new opportunities and creativity.

Being on relative lockdown, this MLK, Jr. Day will look and feel a bit different. I invite you to observe the day in one of the following ways:

  1. Learn more about MLK beyond his “I Have A Dream” speech.
    1. Our God is Marching On, Selma, Alabama, March 25, 1965
    2. Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence, Riverside Church in New York City, April 4, 1967
    3. I’ve been to the Mountaintop, Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968
  2. Engage in an uncomfortable conversation about equality or equity. Challenge yourself to be opened to learning more than what you think you already know.
  3. Watch a race and social justice related movie or documentary, then write down your initial thoughts/questions about it. Allow yourself to revisit those thoughts/questions later on in the day or week.
    1. LA ‘92 – It recounts the stories of Rodney King, who was brutally beaten by police officers, and Latasha Harlins, a teenager who was fatally shot in a convenience store.
    2. 13th – The 13th amendment led to slavery’s modern manifestation, in which Black Americans are imprisoned disproportionately, often for minor offenses.
    3. I Am Not Your Negro – I Am Not Your Negro examines the modern Black experience in America through the last writings of James Baldwin and his correspondences with Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers.
    4. Teach Us All – Decades after the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, Sonia Lowman’s documentary covers how segregation, though illegal, persists in the American school system through demographic inequality, specifically in Little Rock, New York City, and Los Angeles.

Finally, create and continue conversations well past this day and into the future.

Alicia Crank

5 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Ideas for observing the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday”

  1. I’d like people to take deeper dive into MLK, try to understand why he really didn’t care for the personalities or the methods of Jesse Jackson or Malcolm X. The Civil Rights movement was a lot like the American Revolution in the aspect that the founding fathers of it had a lot of disagreements, many of of them so diametrically opposed it would leave us asking why they ever cooperated in the first place. Ralph Abernathy’s was MLK’s heir apparent, but he died largely ignored. His epitaph is probably the most intelligent statement ever said about one’s life and legacy; it reads “I TRIED”. Never has so much been said in so few words. I doubt MLK would have appreciated the BLM movement. I don’t think he would have ever held a candle for George Floyd. The irony is that I doubt Malcolm X would have either. In the pantheon of Civil Rights Leaders we’re left with no pillars; just Jesse and Sharpton. Assata Shakur is sometimes pictured in BLM murals with MLK and it’s blasphemy, or at least a systemic failure to understand MLK severe enough that it’s worth blaming our current leaders and education.


    1. Matt, if you actually took a deeper dive, you might learn something new. It’s important to understand and not misrepresent MLK and Malcom Xs relationship. Perhaps you could start with Alicia’s suggestion to watch “ I Am Not Your Negro.” It’s important white people look critically at black history coming from white narratives and question their accuracy and validity. They are nearly always white washed narratives of history, written by white people, in order to make white people more comfortable. I suggest you engage in more critical study of MLK and Malcom X, and not make such interpretations, especially if you are not black or a scholar of black history. I’d also suggest you genuinely contemplate why BLM causes you such discomfort and why you feel you need to assume you know what MLK or any other black leader, past or present, thinks about the movement. That is not your place. But considering why you feel the need to provide this speculative assessment of what MLK would think is a point of real contemplation and where you might find valuable self-work.


    2. Thanks for these suggestions Alicia. I agree with Colleen, above, that much of our written history of “race” relations has been revisionist at best and out right lies at worst.

      Everyone should read the autobiography of Malcome X if they want some honest Black experience history of living in the U.S. He and the late, great comedian Richard Prior both came to see Black / White relations somewhat differently after world travel where the slavery horror had not been a factor in the Black experience. Events of last week make it critical that we learn to understand and love each other before it’s too late.


  2. Thank you for this commentary. I appreciate your sharing resources for reflection and understanding! Your hosting the Black in Edmonds series was a powerful opportunity to learn and gather virtually around a topic of concern to us all. I’m looking forward to the “Becoming Brave” Tribute to MLK on Monday organized by our own Donnie Griffin and to reading a book I just received, “Thou, Dear God” Prayers that Open Hearts and Spirits, written by Rev. Dr. King.


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