Monday, January 16, 2023 is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring one of the most important leaders and thinkers in American history. Dr. King was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesman and leader in the American civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968.
Photo credit: “Martin Luther King, Jr. 1964 (source: Library of Congress)” by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
A “day on” instead of a “day off”
Martin Luther King Day is a great opportunity to reflect on Dr. King’s work, increase our understanding of his legacy, and take action to support movements for freedom and justice.
Dr. King believed in “cultivating a beloved community.” One way to contribute and stay connected with our communities is through volunteering at community organizations that also further Dr. King’s legacy of work on racial justice, activism, nonviolence, anti-poverty work, and mutual support. Stone Soup Café, Franklin County Community Meals Program (FCCMP), Center for New Americans, Just Roots, The Literacy Project, BBBS of Franklin County, Western Mass Showing Up for Racial Justice and other organizations have ongoing opportunities to get involved, some of which are open to youth and adults.
Celebrating and building on Dr. King’s legacy is not limited to one day a year! May the momentum from the January holiday carry us into February’s Black History Month celebrations and beyond: into a year-round practice of working towards collective liberation.
Please explore and share these events and resources to inspire ongoing action:
Events in our region
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration at GCC
Monday, January 16, 10:00am-1:00pm
GCC’s Cohn Family Dining Commons
For over a decade, Greenfield Community College has been celebrating the legacy of Dr. King. This year’s event features a program appropriate for all ages, with keynote speaker Kwamane Harris, author of Pushing the Generations: Finding Your Purpose Through the Next Generation, and performances exploring immigration, migration and homelessness from the youth group “Twice as Smart.”
Please RSVP here.
Stone Soup Café’s 3rd Annual MLK Day Pick-Your-Own Film Festival!! We have a list of 4 incredible films/tv shows you can choose from. Make time to watch one (or two? or three!?) of these films before February 1st, then join together virtually with folks from Stone Soup on the first day of Black History Month to share about the films we watched.
Baystate Health’s virtual MLK Day celebration: “It Starts With Me: Cultivating a Beloved Community Mindset”
Friday January 13 from 12-1pm
This event will feature a keynote by Dr. Edison Bond, Jr., Director of Patient Relations at Baystate Health, winner of numerous awards for his leadership, commitment to advocacy, and organizing for social justice. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” musical performance will be performed by students from William N. DeBerry Elementary School.
Learn more here and sign up to attend here.
Writing Wrongs: In the Shadow of the Dream, a Community Conversation
Monday, Jan. 16, 12-2 pm
Edwards Church, 297 Main Street, Northampton, MA
Join this conversation (aimed at adults and older youth) about Ousmane Power-Greene’s novel The Confessions of Matthew Strong and a talk by the author, connecting the ideas and themes from his novel and the legacies of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. Sponsored by Self-Evident Education and The Collaborative for Educational Services (CES)
The National Civil Rights Museum has a page on Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy. You also check out subpages on the following topics (each clickable within the linked page above): Justice; Poverty; Decent Housing; Better Jobs & Higher Wages; Quality Education; Peace; and more!
Especially for educators, parents, and caregivers: Embrace Race’s article MLK Day and the Danger of A “Single Story” helps us to remember that it’s important to be careful of perpetuating a “hero” myth when we teach about Dr. King, and why it’s critical to connect Dr. King’s life with those who inspired and taught him. We all have the capacity to make a positive difference.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute supports a broad range of educational activities illuminating Dr. King’s life and the movements he inspired. The Institute website includes links to documents, other sites, curriculum, and opportunities for further connections.
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, GA includes the places where Dr. King was born, lived, worked, worshipped, and is buried. Come hear his story, visit the home of his birth, and where he played as a child. Walk in his footsteps, and hear his voice in the church where he moved hearts and minds. Marvel at how he was an instrument for social change. Even if you cannot get to Atlanta, the website includes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy of Racial and Social Justice: A Curriculum for Empowerment
Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) also has some great resources for educators/mentors. Its collection of lessons, teachable texts and further reading helps educators bring the work of Dr. King to life in any learning setting.
Civil Rights Teaching is another source for educational resources for Teaching about Martin Luther King Jr. and beyond.
Dr. King’s speeches and writing
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, December, 1964
Dr. King is known for his speeches and writing. Here is a link to some of his memorable quotations. Make sure to research the source of the quotation to gain an understanding of the context in which Dr. King said or wrote it.
The Arts provide an embodied connection with Dr. King’s legacy.
Colorlines has a playlist of songs that sample MLK speeches or reference his legacy
Ultimate Classic Rock has 12 Classic Songs Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.
Check out the movie Selma, a 2014 historical drama film directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Paul Webb. It is based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches initiated and directed by James Bevel and led by Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams, and John Lewis.
Many artists have been inspired by Dr. King’s work, including Faith Ringgold, an Artist-activist who illustrated King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail in eight serigraphs.
Other ways to take action throughout the year
Support organizations working on voting rights
Support Black-owned businesses
Black-owned restaurants, grocers in Springfield and across Western Massachusetts you can support
Amherst Area Minority / BIPOC-Owned Businesses
Support BIPOC-, Veteran-, Woman-, LGBTQ-, Disabled-Owned Businesses