Flickr CC: Ben Schumin
Martin Luther King Jr. Day should not be viewed by students as an extra day off of school; but rather a “day on”. This occasion must be recognized for its significance and the potential impact it can have on the St. Paul Academy community when acknowledged. The holiday offers students an opportunity to recognize the legacy of King as well as to inform themselves and others, participate in acts of service and to support organizations one believes in.
Although many students mindlessly think of MLK Day as just another national holiday and a three-day weekend, it is actually the only national holiday designated as a national day of service. There are several ways to volunteer online, including some that directly impact our community. One way to volunteer online is through participating in the University of Minnesota’s Mapping Prejudice project. This project aims to “visualize the hidden histories of race and privilege in the built environment.” The Mapping Prejudice project is one of many volunteer opportunities that further King’s work for social justice in the United States. By choosing to work towards accomplishing King’s dreams for the United States, students contribute to a significant change to the SPA community, as well as the Twin Cities. Whereas choosing to do nothing ensures that little progress will be made.
Another great way to further King’s life and legacy this MLK Day is through informing oneself on the importance of MLK day. Oftentimes, the importance of MLK Day can be overlooked in the classroom due to how much content is packed into each class period, so it becomes crucial to educate oneself outside of school hours. One simple way to learn more about King is through the numerous documentaries that have been made about him. One example is I Am MLK Jr. (2018), a feature documentary that examines the life of King. Though, self-education does not have to be limited to just King and just once a year on a national holiday. The documentary 13th examines the history of racial inequality in the United States, with a focus on justice and mass incarceration. This documentary can be viewed on Netflix. One can take a break from screens and educate oneself through reading books about King, the civil rights movement, and social justice and racism in the United States. Martin Luther King Jr.: A Life, by Marshall Frady, offers a great introduction to King’s life and is just a short read, slightly over 200 pages.
Additionally, there are ways to educate oneself this MLK Day that require no subscriptions or physical books, just access to the internet and any amount of time one is willing to spend. This includes self-directed research. During MLK Day, one can read or watch King’s past speeches, especially the ones that are less well-known. “Our God is Marching On”, a speech delivered by King in Selma, Alabama on March 25, 1965. This speech is considered by historians to mark the end of the civil rights movement and the beginning of his phase focused on legal and political rights in addition to economic equality. Another one of King’s moving speeches to watch this MLK Day is “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence”, given in Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967. This speech is considered one of King’s most controversial, as he was early to condemn the war.
This MLK Day it is crucial to commemorate King’s legacy through action. There are no excuses to spend this national holiday as a day off rather than a “day on”, as there are a variety of opportunities each with a range of time commitments. Choosing to do nothing on this day allows for inequality to persist in the community. Though it is crucial to use this day as a “day on”, one’s actions should not be limited to Jan. 17, 2022, or the upcoming MLK Day, as service and action should continue throughout the whole year.
The original Ben Schumin photo can be found at Flickr CC.