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:
- Learn more about MLK beyond his “I Have A Dream” speech.
- Engage in an uncomfortable conversation about equality or equity. Challenge yourself to be opened to learning more than what you think you already know.
- 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.
- 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.
- 13th – The 13th amendment led to slavery’s modern manifestation, in which Black Americans are imprisoned disproportionately, often for minor offenses.
- 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.
- 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.