Discover more from Footnotes by Jemar Tisby
Three Ways to Celebrate MLK Day
Don't let this day pass without purposefully reflecting on King's legacy.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday comes around every year, but many of us still struggle to find ways to celebrate the day.
Service is always an option. The MLK holiday is the only federal holiday to also be officially designated as a day of service. So searching your local community for opportunities to put others before self is always an appropriate way to honor King.
In addition to volunteering and community service, here are three more ways to celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
1. Read the Works of King
For someone whose name is so ubiquitous, we know precious little about Martin Luther King, Jr. beyond a handful of quotes that are often ripped out of context. So this MLK Day, take some time to read King’s words at length.
Read or listen to the entirety of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and follow his train of thought that precedes the “content of their character” part. You could also read King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” one of the finest works of political theology in the 20th century. Or you can listen to it HERE.
You can also read one of King’s books. Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community outlines King’s thoughts on a comprehensive program of progress and justice. Strength to Love is a collection of King’s sermons that exhibit his thoughts about God and justice as prepared for congregations and people of faith.
2. Take the Nonviolence 365 Training
Martin Luther King, Jr. is perhaps most admired for his consistent commitment to nonviolence as a force for social change. That legacy lives on in the form of Nonviolence 365 (NV365).
According to the King Center, “Our high-impact trainings and immersive programs help individuals and organizations drive transformational outcomes and reshape culture through the power of nonviolence. Our approach to achieving equitable and positive social change is rooted in the belief that nonviolence is a way of life.”
These trainings are now available online as a self-paced course. There is an associated fee, but consider it an investment in a peaceful future and the creation of the Beloved Community.
As a bonus activity, you can always become a paid subscriber to this Footnotes Substack, and support me in the work of bringing history to bear on our present-day problems and possibilities!
3. Take Part in Preserving the Past
As a historian, I had to include this one. The Smithsonian Institute is engaged in all kinds of projects to preserve history and make it accessible to everyone.
Thanks to the efforts of thousands of “volunpeers” many historical records have already been transcribed and are searchable within online databases. But numerous projects relating to the history of Black people in the United States remain in progress.
The Smithsonian Transcription Project website allows you to search by museum or theme. Find a project that interests you, go through the online training and resources, and get started!