The iconic Martin Luther King, Jr. became a powerful, symbolic leader of African-Americans through his passion for civil rights, his fight against racial discrimination, and his radical strategy for non-violent protesting. We should honor his birthday—January 15th—by remembering his greatest achievements, absorbing some of his famous quotes, and by creative ways of celebrating his birthday.
HISTORICAL FACTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
He Amplified the Civil Rights Movement.The powerful “I Have A Dream” speech is the most famous speech in America. King stayed up hours writing it and got only two hours of sleep prior to the event. When he reached the top steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he started off by reading the speech from his manuscript, but only got a few words out. He soon began speaking from his spirit, and that’s when the crowd really tuned in. That’s when King became more passionate and raised the volume of his voice. That’s when freedom rang from Colorado, New Hampshire, New York, Georgia, across America!
King Founded The Southern Christian Leadership Conference.Inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King and other civil rights activists formed together and founded The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The grand aim of this organization was to promote the cause of the Civil Rights Movement while exemplifying non-violent behavior against racial injustice. King was president of the organization up until his assassination in 1968.
He Led the Great March on Washington.Determined more than ever for racial equality in jobs and freedom, King and other close civil rights’ leaders organized the March on Washington where he delivered the famous “I Have A Dream” speech. This speech established King as one of the most powerful orators of our time. This monumental event was so successful (with over 250,000 participants) that it was marked as one of the biggest political rallies for human rights in U.S. history. It also led to more subsequent marches in the years to come. One of the greatest advancements that stemmed from the March on Washington was the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
He was the Youngest Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.In October 1964, King, only 35 years old, won the Nobel Peace Prize for leading non-violent protesting to racial injustice in America.
King Utilized Creative Non-Violence as Protest.King had a unique way of combining non-violent civil disobedience with his Christian beliefs. He was hugely inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent style of activism.
HOW TO CELEBRATE?
Watch some biopics.Are you a movie buff? There are plenty of movies about the life of MLK with vivid portrayals that can make you feel involved with the movement. Movies such as Selma, King: A FilmedRecord…Montgomery to Memphisand even The Butlerare ways of honoring MLK.
Take a historical trip.The Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument in Washington D.C. is an honorable choice. Consider the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent and Social Change, located in Atlanta, Georgia. This center is replete with historical treasures such as the birth home of MLK, gift shops, the crypts of Martin and Coretta Scott King, and the church where he preached, Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. Guess what? Admissions and parking are free!
Create!Are you an artist, musician, photographer, filmmaker, or writer? Whatever your craft is, create in honor of MLK’s holiday! Paint an aspirational photo, write a blog post and find rare photos tracing MLK’s life, compose a song or a spoken-word poem and perform it locally (or on YouTube, maybe?). Whatever you choose to do, there is a way of making it honorary.
Educate!Educate those who are in the dark about racial injustice. Educate small children, or perhaps your own children, about MLK. Educate those who deny that racial injustice still exists in today’s world. Educate those who discriminate and seem to perpetuate everything King fought against. Knowledge is power and a catalyst to positive change.
Support a local organization that fights for civil rights.The NAACP Winston-Salem Chapter focuses on civil rights and aims to maintain political, social, economic, and educational equality among people of color, and to diminish prejudice.
Not only should Martin Luther King, Jr. be celebrated on his birthday, but he should be celebrated for a lifetime. Happy MLK Day!