What does it mean to be strong and empowered? How do you find your confidence? Who are role models, male or female, that we can look to to set the tone? Today, on MLK Day, which is, after all, really more than just another Monday off from work and school, it is our honor to salute the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. – with a name like that he’s gotta be important, right?
Well, DUH! We dedicate the third Monday of January each year (close to his birthday) to celebrating the life, achievements and efforts of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his accomplishments with respect to the American Civil Rights movement.
Born a child prodigy on January 15, 1929 in Georgia, MLK believed he was called to lead by God in a life of religious integrity and social activism. He advocated civil disobedience, the non-violent resistance against unjust laws and played a huge role in the movement towards social justice for African Americans which later expanded to focus on human rights for all. He was influential in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, non violent protests in Birmingham, the March on Washington, Bloody Sunday, and Turn Around Tuesday.
MLK was an anti-war campaigner and believed that hate can’t solve what it began. While he was very much dedicated to the civil rights movement and his Christian obligation, he had many moments of doubt because of the toll this commitment took on his family, his mental health, and his physical wellbeing. The life of social justice advocacy isn’t an easy one, as it is never a favorable decision to go against the status quo but MLK believed that this is what he needed to do in order to remain humane and morally sane.
Because he was a renowned minister, he strongly believed in Christian love and agape – loving your neighbors and your enemies. He believed in giving everyone the same respect and genuine love even if they might not deserve it. His unfortunate end came by assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. The movement didn’t die there. His contributions paved the way for many triumphs for human rights and allowed for other issues (gay rights, women’s rights) to come to the surface and have their voices heard.
Social justice is a personal journey; a life of advocacy can take several forms! No one should tell you how to participate in the movement or what movement to be a part of! You should instead evaluate your talents and skills while still challenging yourself to make a difference and best apply yourself. Social justice is about self-advocacy and self agency and in order for you to best function as a part of the collective goal of social justice you need to identify and pursue your personal role. Maybe sit-ins and walk outs aren’t for you. Maybe you prefer protesting on social media? Or even leading by example? Social justice depends on the individual efforts of everyone in order to make a difference, there is no one way to be a social justice advocate. So what does living for social justice mean to you? What do you do or would like to do to make the world a better place for everyone to live and love regardless of all other factors? Whatever you stand for be consistent, persistent, and don’t let anyone tell you you are not capable of making a difference because every day you touch the lives of so many and every little good deed counts!
The way I remind myself to be a great social justice campaigner and treat everyone equally, fairly, and respectfully is by being “quicker to listen, slower to speak and slower to anger.” What is a mantra or quote you live by? Tell me in the comments below!
2016 Goal: Visit the Center for Civil and Human Rights – if you aren’t that familiar with the civil and human rights movement or don’t know how to get involved this center provides incredible background and interactive experiences to aid in your understanding and help you identify issues that you care about!
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