This past Monday, January 16, 2017, was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This federal holiday celebrates the life and legacy of the famed leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Shortly after his assassination in 1968, a campaign to make his birthday (January 15) a national holiday began. It took almost twenty years for this petition to gain traction and become a law. This happened in 1983, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day officially began being observed in 1986, but it was not observed in all states until 2000.
Each year, when this day comes around, I find myself becoming quiet and introspective. I find myself looking inward and asking myself if I am doing enough to help my fellow man. Mr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech had a huge impact on me when I was a young girl. I remember hearing that speech and, later, reading the words and memorizing several passages. I’ve heard the speech many, many times over the years. I’ve also taken the time to learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. I’ve read his books, and I’ve read books about him. King’s words were intelligent, thoughtful, forward-thinking, and challenging. He wanted to make this world a better place, and he, ultimately, gave his life doing it.
Because of his larger-than-life legacy, it’s very easy to make Mr. King a one-dimensional caricature. Everyone knows that he delivered the impactful “I Have a Dream” speech, but I think it is important to find out what else motivated this amazing man. He cared deeply about gaining civil rights for minorities through non-violent action. He, also, was an advocate for economic equality and an opponent of the Vietnam war. As a Baptist minister, he used his Christian faith and beliefs to help shape his agenda. He knew that great and lasting change would come. All he and his fellow activists had to do was keep moving forward.
This year, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I celebrated. I didn’t celebrate by having a big party or eating cake. Instead, I celebrated by taking stock of my life. When I started school, the schools here in Brackettville were segregated. By the time I was ready to graduate, the schools had been integrated. I have lived through some sadness caused by prejudice and bigotry, but I have also been a witness to great change. I believe that we are always striving to better ourselves. I believe that we are always doing the best we can to make this world a better place. So on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I celebrated. I celebrated how far we’ve come. I celebrated the beauty and the struggle of our journey. And I celebrated that, even though we still have a long way to go, we are willing to keep moving forward.
Note: This blog was published as an article in 1/19/17