The 35th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – Jan. 18 – bears significant weight in light of the country’s social justice movement. DEGC seeks to fulfill Dr. King’s dream through a number of initiatives to combat racism and provide inclusive and accessible opportunities for all Detroit residents. This includes helping Black-owned businesses succeed, attracting new investments that create good jobs for local residents, and helping Black developers shape our city.
Dr. King’s commitment to peaceful protests as a fundamental form of civil disobedience helped secure civil rights for Black Americans. Standing against endless provocation, Dr. King and his followers remained steadfast in their peacefulness and his nonviolent action worked to help overturn systemic segregation and racism. This lesson is more important than ever as we witness protestors peacefully challenging racially motivated violence by police, and those who don’t respect a peaceful transition of power, inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol.
Although celebrations honoring Dr. King will shift primarily online due to the continuing pandemic, the importance of this day is not diminished. The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is hosting a day of activities to virtually explore and commemorate Dr. King. This includes a keynote address by PBS NewsHour White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor embracing the theme, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”
A “day on, not a day off”
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. AmeriCorps, which has been leading the MLK “Day of Service” for the last 25 years, encourages all Americans to pitch in. Through its website, interested volunteers can find local opportunities to serve, including elder care, veteran assistance, food pantries, community clean-ups, grant writing, curriculum building, and even web design.
“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve,” said Dr. King. “You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
As we celebrate the principles Dr. King advocated during his lifetime, we must take responsibility for the work yet to do – racial justice, economic equality, access to housing, healthcare and jobs, and inclusion in shaping our nation’s future vision. Revisiting Dr. King’s words and deeds is the perfect spark to raise our nation’s consciousness and drive us to much-needed civic engagement. We need this awakening now to confront the challenges of making this country a more perfect union.