Thursday, January 19, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Is Not Just For Black Folks

Written by Azizi Powell

Stevie Wonder - Happy Birthday

Uploaded by johnniewalker23 on Dec 9, 2007


Click for the lyrics to this song.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not just for Black folks.

Here's some information about that United States federal holiday from,_Jr._Day:

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a United States federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around the time of King's birthday, January 15...

King was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. The campaign for a federal holiday in King's honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed on January 20, 1986...

The idea of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday was promoted by labor unions in contract negotiations.

...the King Center turned to support from the corporate community and the general public. The success of this strategy was cemented when musician Stevie Wonder released the single "Happy Birthday" to popularize the campaign in 1980 and hosted the Rally for Peace Press Conference in 1981. Six million signatures were collected for a petition to Congress to pass the law, termed by a 2006 article in The Nation as "the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. history."

...The national Martin Luther King Day of Service was started by former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, who co-authored the King Holiday and Service Act. The federal legislation challenges Americans to transform the King Holiday into a day of citizen action volunteer service in honor of Dr. King. The federal legislation was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 23, 1994. Since 1996, the annual Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service has been the largest event in the nation honoring Dr. King.

Several other universities and organizations around the U.S., such as Arizona State University, Greater DC Cares and City Year, participate in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. In honor of MLK, volunteers across the country donate their time to make a difference on this day.

I interprete "to make a difference on this day" to mean "to make the United States and the world a better place for people regardless of their race, creed, color or any other descriptors, conditiona, lawa, or practicea that contribute to the existence and continuation of personal prejudice and/or systemic injustice".


Each year, on the third Monday in January, people in the United States pause to honor the life and dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. Many classroom teachers also pause in the weeks leading up to Martin Luther King Day to take advantage of the opportunity to teach about the King legacy of tolerance, equality, and respect.

Of course, lessons on "tolerance, equality, and respect" shouldn't be the focus for just one day of the year. However, considering Martin Luther King Jr. Day as "a Black holiday" disregards the core spirit and central purpose of that day.

From, a page from The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Center For Non-Violent Change:

In all corners of the globe, Martin Luther King, Jr. is viewed as one of humanity’s most resonant voices for freedom, justice and equality. His emphasis on leveraging nonviolent action to achieve positive social change has inspired millions to continue his efforts through their own hands. Ranging from international peace activists to communities battling poverty in America, people from all walks of life respond to Dr. King’s timeless message and call for a better world.

From another page of that same website: 1963, Dr. King was one of the driving forces behind the March for Jobs and Freedom, more commonly known as the “March on Washington,” which drew over a quarter-million people to the national mall. It was at this march that Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which cemented his status as a social change leader and helped inspire the nation to act on civil rights. Dr. King was later named Time magazine’s “Man of the Year.”...

Between 1965 and 1968, Dr. King shifted his focus toward economic justice – which he highlighted by leading several campaigns in Chicago, Illinois – and international peace – which he championed by speaking out strongly against the Vietnam War. His work in these years culminated in the “Poor Peoples Campaign,” which was a broad effort to assemble a multiracial coalition of impoverished Americans who would advocate for economic change.

Many adults in the United States are glad that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a paid work holiday. And most children in the United States are happy that they have no school on that day. However, thinking of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as just a day off of work or school defeats the core spirit and the central purposes of that federal holiday. Furthermore, considering Martin Luther King Jr. Day a "Black holiday" belittles the life, accomplishments, and dreams of that advocate for civil rights and social justice. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was bigger than that and we should be too.

Martin Luther King - I Have A Dream Speech - August 28, 1963

Uploaded by sullentoys on Jan 20, 2011

I Have a Dream Speech

Martin Luther King's Address at March on Washington
August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"


A transcription of what is now known as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream Speech" can be found at

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