The third Monday in January is dedicated to honoring the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This federal holiday was first established in 1986 in honor of Dr. King who was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. It is the first and only holiday centered around a national figure who was not a President, and who was an African American. This year, the holiday falls on January 17, which is also Dr. King’s birthday.
Now, over 30 years since the holiday became official and more than 50 years since Dr. King’s death, the day is widely celebrated across the nation and abroad. MLK Day is observed as a day of service, as many charities and organizations provide education and service opportunities to help their local communities.
Recent events of racial injustice over the past several years have shed light on the reality that Dr. King’s legacy lives on and much work remains. While progress surrounding racial equality has been made throughout our country’s history, we still have a long way to go. Society is at a critical moment to propel the work of Dr. King and move the needle forward towards a more equitable world for all people.
As an organization, MJ is on a journey to becoming a more equitable and inclusive workplace. Adopting a more proactive approach to issues surrounding diversity and inclusion has proven to yield impactful results as MJ implements both internal and external strategies.
That’s why one pillar of the MJ Foundation is to foster diversity by actively seeking opportunities to advance the equity of people of color and others underrepresented in our industry. Internally, MJ now has a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council which aims to foster an environment that values diversity of life experience and perspectives. The efforts of both the Foundation and DE+I Council are ongoing, and we are excited to continue this journey as we learn and grow together.
In alignment with our DE+I commitment, MJ has since made Martin Luther King Jr. Day a company-wide holiday. Rather than considering the holiday as merely an extra day off from work, we encourage our associates and others to maximize the day and celebrate the life of Dr. King. Here are three ways you can utilize the day this year:
LEARN AND REFLECT
There are a plethora of resources designed to help you learn and educate yourself about the Civil Rights Movement. Whether it’s a book, film or documentary—there are dozens of diverse options to choose from. Take some time on MLK Day to read or watch a civil rights film and reflect. Here are some options to get you started:
- The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Why We Can’t Wait – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration – Isabel Wilkerson
- The Light of Truth – Ida B. Wells
- The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin
More books to consider can be found here.
- Films, Series + Documentaries:
- One Night in Miami
- The Butler
- Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madame C.J. Walker
- King in the Wilderness
More options to watch can be found here.
PLAN A VISIT
Visiting a museum, memorial or learning center is an excellent way to enhance your experience and understanding of Dr. King’s work and legacy. Consider the Civil Rights Trail, which includes an interactive map that allows you to explore the destinations important to the Civil Rights Movement. Why not use the holiday to learn about those sites and plan a future visit?
Here are a few additional destinations to consider:
- National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis, TN): a leading heritage and cultural museum with a mission to share the culture and lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement and explore how the era continues to shape equality and freedom. The museum is also located a short walk from the Lorraine Motel, a historic site where Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. You can take a virtual tour of the museum here.
- Equal Justice Initiative (Montgomery, AL): founded by Bryan Stevenson (acclaimed public interest lawyer and bestselling author of Just Mercy). EJI is committed to ending mass incarceration in the U.S., challenging racial and economic injustice and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in society.
- The King Center (Atlanta, GA): founded by Coretta Scott King—Dr. King’s wife, and currently led by Dr. Bernice A. King—Dr. King’s daughter. This organization offers a multitude of resources and events for educators and the general public, fueled by Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence.
To quote Dr. King, “what are you doing for others?” Since this holiday is observed as a day of service, there are countless opportunities to engage your local community through volunteering. Visit the AmeriCorps website to find service opportunities near you. AmeriCorps also provides a helpful list of options as you think about ways to serve your community. Below are some examples:
- Host a discussion on Dr. King’s life, teachings and principles of non-violence
- Assist with job readiness by providing coaching for resume writing, interview skills and dressing for success
- Address food insecurity by serving meals at a homeless shelter or bringing meals to homebound neighbors
- Beautify the community by removing graffiti from a building and painting a mural
More serving opportunities can be found here.
We hope these ideas are helpful as you consider how you can honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and make the most of the holiday.