“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.
You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.
You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.
You only need a heart full of grace.
A soul generated by love.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
MONDAY, JANUARY 15—Serve in your community this week and learn more about civil rights, as the nation collectively remembers the prophetic life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. An American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the third Monday in January annually brings the celebration of a pivotal figure in American history who, during his lifetime, worked ceaselessly for the civil rights movement and nonviolent activism.
THIS YEAR, the holiday falls on King’s actual January 15 birthday, when he was born in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia.
If you are a basketball fan, you may already have seen NBA players—and an NBA-sponsored public service ad—reminding us all of Dr. King’s legacy. Honoring Dr. King has become a well-established annual tradition in the NBA. The league has held games on MLK day nearly every year since 1986. The one exception is the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. This year, there are 11 NBA games on January 15.
AN IMPORTANT TIP: Many of the best events are held close to home—wherever “home” is for you. Our publishing house is based in Michigan and our “local” search turned up a whole host of great events for individuals and families spread across southeast Michigan. You’ll likely find similar lists of events in your part of the U.S.
The main federal website to get involved in MLK Day-related service is the National Service website.
MLK Day: A History
Martin Luther King, Jr. became a Baptist pastor and helped to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, serving as its first president. In 1963, King helped to organize the March on Washington and, there, delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech.
THIS YEAR, we also have the powerful feature film, Rustin, which tells much more about the March on Washington. Click here to read faith-and-film critic Edward McNulty’s review of that film. Ed writes, “The overlooked civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (played by Colman Domingo)—often called the architect of the 1963 March on Washington—is finally getting his due, thanks to the new film directed by George C. Wolfe.”
King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality through nonviolence.
When a bill was introduced for a federal holiday in honor of Dr. King, some representatives argued that an additional paid holiday would be too expensive and that Dr. King, having never held public office, was ineligible. Supporters of the bill began rallying the public, and when Stevie Wonder released “Happy Birthday” in 1980 to raise awareness of the campaign, 6 million signatures were collected. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill that established a federal holiday on November 2, 1983. The holiday was first observed in 1986, and today, Americans are urged to honor the “King Day of Service” by spending the day doing something Dr. King viewed as unparalleled: serving others.