Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Serve from home, honor the nonviolent civil rights leader

“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.


MLK Jr. before crowd

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, JANUARY 18—Serve in your community—even if virtually, or by delivering something on the doorstep of a neighbor in need—and learn more about civil rights, as the nation collectively remembers the legendary 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.

Click the image to access viewing options for the film

An inspiring resource: Daniel Buttry’s Interfaith Peacemakers project has published this inspiring story about Dr. King’s life. Readers are welcome to republish and share Buttry’s story about King with friends.

Looking for ways to serve from home? Check out this list of 10 at-home service projects that both children and adults can participate in, courtesy of Southeast Michigan’s Metro Parent Magazine.

Additional resources: The main federal website to get involved in MLK Day-related service is the National Service website; this year, the site also features a video on service during the time of COVID-19. Plus, there’s a helpful link to free lesson plans for kids, courtesy of Scholastic. For those looking to get creative with their service, CNN has an article on simple, at-home projects—such as crocheting, making homemade cards and putting together care packages—for MLK Day.

“MLK/FBI”: A 2021 film: MLK/FBI, a recently-released film by Emmy Award-winning director Sam Pollard, shows just how difficult it was for this nonviolent leader to speak his message, with a stark difference between our popular memory of the civil rights movement and its complex history. According to an article from the Smithsonian, the film is based on newly discovered and declassified files, and ” … tells the story of the FBI’s surveillance and harassment of King, and explores the contested meaning behind some of our most cherished ideals.”

Additionally, the Smithsonian’s History Film Forum is hosting a related virtual event—a conversation with Pollard, along with Larry Rubin, a former field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)—today, on January 18.


Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929. He 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. 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.


Feed the Spirit: Journalist, author and activist Desiree Cooper writes this FeedTheSpirit column about one of Dr. King’s favorite foods—sweet potato pie—and includes a delicious recipe.

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