For some, the third Monday of January means a 3-day weekend and nothing more. Before her death, MLK’s widow Coretta Scott King wrote movingly about what the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday really means on the King Center website: it is a day to celebrate and remember a great man, but more than that, it’s a day for us all to commemorate the “timeless values he taught us through his example — the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service…unconditional love, forgiveness and nonviolence.” In the current climate of Trump’s America, so rife with unrest and abject racism, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day matters more than ever.
San Francisco-based artist Mark Ulriksen asked himself what Dr. King would be doing if he were here today. His answer is featured on the cover of this week’s The New Yorker: King, kneeling in prayer and locking arms with Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett. Legendary civil rights leader and Representative John Lewis (D-GA) also asked himself that question. Lewis had a lot to say while on the circuit of Sunday morning news shows but in sum he believes King “would not be pleased.”
On this 32nd celebration of MLK Day in what would have been his 89th year and the 50th year since his assassination, it can be easy to feel little hope when looking around and realizing how far off Dr. King’s dream still is. Carmen Coya van-Duijn from the King Center in Atlanta reminds that the day can and should be a day of service. There are so many ways to make a difference, big or small, and all of them honor King’s memory and celebrate his legacy.
There are a number of events around the country to celebrate Dr. King. The Annual Ecumenical Commemorative Service will be held at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. This will be followed by a march and rally as well as an evening talk about bridging the racial divide. Outside Atlanta, notable events include the 33rd Annual Kingdom Day Parade in California, an all-day event at the Chicago History Museum along with the opening of their exhibit “Remembering Dr. King: 1929-1968,” an all-day event at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, a gospel concert in New Jersey, a historic walking tour in Harlem, and a full day of programming at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. In D.C., the National Museum of African American History & Culture will have special programming all day as well as screenings of the documentary King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery To Memphis. In the evening, there will be a concert featuring Vanessa Williams and the Let Freedom Ring Choir at the Kennedy Center.