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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Kim

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Remembering Why We Recognize

By Stephanie Kim, Editor-in-Chief

From The King Center, 2022 King Holiday Observance

Two days after what would have been Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 93rd birthday, we celebrated his nationally recognized holiday. Though originally proposed to be celebrated on King’s birthday, January 15th, the day is always observed on the third Monday in January. It’s a day to commemorate King and all his accomplishments in the civil rights movement. One small day for a great man who did numerous things to further equality in America.

That third Monday in January is remembered by many because they get a day off–it’s sad to say, but it’s true. Like many other holidays we observe, we often forget what the true meaning of the day is about. Getting so wrapped up in the festivities of it all that we neglect to recognize why we are even celebrating in the first place. It’s easily done and many of us are guilty of it, but we don’t have to keep that cycle going.

Though Martin Luther King Jr. Day has passed, we can still take the time to recognize and honor him. Learn more about King and what he did, read his speeches, or simply have a conversation about racial injustice. There are many things that we can do to remember the past, and current, struggle for racial equality. Taking the time to reflect on King’s accomplishments and what he went through is one of the few things we can do to honor him and, even if not on the holiday’s date, is a great way to recognize the day.

MLK Jr. Day is not the only holiday that falls short when it comes to us remembering the day’s true origins, but it is one that is forgotten repeatedly. Holidays like Memorial and Labor Day are not forsaken–many online posts and phone calls are made on those days–and other holidays like Independence and Thanksgiving Day can not be ignored due to the celebrations. Though those holidays are highly important, the tradition of MLK Jr. Day being bypassed by many American citizens is something we all need to take a look at.

The day is to recognize one man and the great effort for racial justice that he made–and ultimately died for. He spoke, protested, and died for the cause that he spent his life standing for. The holiday is intended to not only celebrate his birthday but to honor the legacy that King left. Its purpose is to make us remember what he went through for civil rights and cause us to reflect upon our nation’s current status. We often take for granted that we have the day off and neglect to honor King in any way.

Creating new traditions to start honoring King’s holiday is what we should strive to do. Start getting together and talking about MLK Jr. Day: its origins, King’s life, current racial injustices, or even which of his speeches is your favorite. We can start researching King’s achievements and learn more about him (more than just what we hear in school) to start fueling the conversations. A lot of people may know everything there is to know about King, but many also know very little. If we start to have those conversations, then maybe all of us will know more about him and the fight for racial equality.

We can’t be afraid to have those conversations, especially on MLK Jr. Day. However, beginning to have those conversations daily will make the holiday celebration that much more meaningful. Having daily conversations regarding racial injustice and civil rights might also help more people remember what the day is really for. Those conversations will assist in shedding light on some of the nation’s issues and bring a sense of normalcy to topics many feel are too “political” to discuss. We can begin to discuss, read, and research the causes that Martin Luther King Jr. stood for to honor him now, not only on MLK Jr. Day but any day that civil rights are requisite.

To learn more about Dr. MLK Jr. or to donate to The King Center, go to:

Check out The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change Youtube channel for videos from the 2022 King Holiday Observance:


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