Martin Luther King Jr. Day counts as an opportunity each year for the nation to unite and celebrate the life and legacy of one of America’s most prolific humanitarian leaders.
For folks in the District and around the nation, it’s a day of service and a chance to reflect.
In Memphis, Tennessee, the city where King traveled in support of sanitation workers and was subsequently assassinated, officials and others will host a 90th birthday celebration at the National Civil Rights Museum that will help support Black-owned businesses in one of the country’s top cities for African-American entrepreneurs and volunteer organizations.
Locally, Mayor Muriel Bowser plans to participate in a King Holiday Peace Walk and Parade beginning at 11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 21 at the Anacostia Park entrance on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Good Hope Road in Southeast.
The Student Conservation Association will also be on hand to connect the issues of social and environmental justice by mobilizing all to help restore the Anacostia River and DC’s Urban Waterfront.
“MLK Day is a day to recommit to the fight for equality and inclusion and to remember who we want to be as individuals and as a country,” said Lena Hackett, executive director and managing partner of the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative, a nonprofit that works to commemorate the historic speech delivered by Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in Indianapolis on the night King was assassinated.
“We will be partnering with IndyParks at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park to honor the life of Dr. King and call others to join in the movement for peace and justice,” Hackett said, adding one of King’s famous quotations: “In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
The best way to commemorate King is for America to re-read his sermons and gain a renewed appreciation for their timeless wisdom on racial reconciliation, justice, family and faith, said GIS Specialist Frederick Weaver.
“Then we must individually and collectively act on that wisdom to solve today’s challenges,” Weaver said.
MLK Day is one of service and reflection, particularly for the Black community, he added.
“It is a time to acknowledge remaining injustices and problems to be fought while celebrating areas where society has improved,” Weaver said. “I will celebrate by volunteer at the Capitol Pregnancy Center which offers aid to single mothers and fathers.”
Kim David, founder of Project Stella Resources, an organization that helps engage youth in service projects, has provided several project ideas including a coat drive and making no-sew fleece scarves for men, women and children who are homeless.
The projects also include teaching a financial literacy workshop, collecting books and school supplies for schools in need, creating community displays that highlight what makes a particular area special, packaging meals and toiletry packs for victims of human trafficking, and the creation of an “I Have a Dream,” wall to empower students to dream.
“We are also doing a ‘Let’s R.O.C.K.’ program encouraging everyone in the community to ‘Radiate Outrageous Compassion & Kindness through Random Acts of Kindness’ over the three-day weekend,” David said. “We want them to post what they are doing to social media with #LetsROCK.”
For author, speaker and media personality Lucinda Cross, the best way to commemorate the holiday this year is by throwing a large “Dream Board” party where young children and even their parents come together to create dream boards.
“MLK day means a day to reflect on one man’s dream for the nation and how important it is for us to dream big enough for others,” Cross said. “Thinking of selfless dreams that can change the communities in which we live, work and serve. MLK day is a day of permission to believe that all it takes is a dream and the belief to verbalize it and act on it in spite of.”