Martin Luther King Day is an American federal holiday celebrating the birthday of civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr. This day is celebrated each year on the third Monday of January. It is an important day for all the people in the world who stand against racial discrimination and who stand for basic human rights. The bill for this federal holiday was proposed after King’s assassination in 1968 and President Ronald Regan finally signed this holiday into law in 1983. But it was first celebrated in all of the US states in 2000.
How this holiday came to be?
The idea of Martin Luther King Day was first proposed soon after he got assassinated in 1968 by labor unions. John Conyers (a Democrat from Michigan) and Senator Edward Brooke (a Republican from Massachusetts) introduced this bill in Congress to make King’s birthday a National holiday in 1979. Of course there were people who opposed the idea of this holiday. There were people who opposed it purely on racial grounds and some opposed it because they thought it was “too expensive” that paid holiday was to be given to all the federal employees a paid holiday. Some people also opposed in on technical grounds that King never really held a public office and thus they didn’t want to give this honor to a mere civilian. Only two people hold in US have this honor that a holiday is celebrated to remember them. They are George Washington and Christopher Columbus.
Senators Jesse Helms and John Porter East also opposed this holiday on the grounds that if “MLK was important enough or not”. Helms also accused King to be a communist and also indicated towards MLK’s opposition for the Vietnam War. President Ronald Regan himself was first against the Martin Luther King Day but finally signed the law.
Despite all this opposition and criticism, the support for the holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. was huge. Singer Stevie Wonder released his song “Happy birthday” to promote the movement. The “King Center” also payed attention towards the corporate sector for support and got a positive response. Millions and millions of people signed petitions in support of the movement which The Nation claimed as the largest petition EVER signed in support of an issue.
After this entire struggle, the bill to make Martin Luther King Day a national holiday was finally passed in the Congress. The first ever official holiday was observed on 20 January 1986. Since then it has been celebrated on every 3rd Monday of January each year.
Why should I wish you a Happy Martin Luther King Day?
Martin Luther King was a notable spokesperson for civil rights movement and fought against racial discrimination through nonviolence and civil disobedience. Revered as a leader and hero, he certainly is one of the most important personalities in the History of United States of America. King was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He was inspired by Christian beliefs and the ideology of nonviolence of Mahatma Gandhi. King fought against racial discrimination and struggled for basic human rights from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. He was and outspoken person and an outstanding leader. He successfully led many nonviolence protests and became quite famous for his thrilling speech “I have a dream” which he delivered on the 1963 “March on Washington”.
King, for his work in the civil rights movements and struggle to eradicate racial discriminations through nonviolence earned him respect, not only in the US but in all over the world. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal. Hundreds of streets were renamed in his honor and an entire country was rededicated to him.
To achieve such feats in era where violence on the basis of race was on the peak, he was a fearless and selfless man. His love for humanity transcended all the racial tensions. This can be seen in his speech of “I have a dream” when he says “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed : “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
That is why it is important to take a day from your life, and embrace the spirit of equality, freedom and love and wish your fellow, a happy Martin Luther King Day.
MLK Statue in DC:
In the memory of the great Martin Luther King, there is a memorial build in West Potomac Park next to National Mall in Washington D.C. This MLK statue in the DC’s West Potomac Park is called the “Stone of Hope” and is carved from a single granite stone. The memorial was opened for public in August 22, 2011. Its inspiration was King’s famous speech “I have a dream”. The line that really inspired the artist Lei Yixin was “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
This MLK statue in DC really stands tall and makes a statement; it stands tall for all the things that Mr. King said in his life.
How can we celebrate Martin Luther King Day?
Although people may think this as a “Day off”, but it actually isn’t. You are not really off the hook here mate. After all the great Martin Luther King did for humanity, the least we can do is considering it a “Day on” and work for his ideology. We can spread his message we can spread awareness. This is the least we can all do. There are different ways we can achieve these aims though.
- Teach the kids
Wise men say that when you really want to bring change, you start it by bringing change in your own home. And even wise thing is to teach younger generations about Martin Luther King’s teachings and ideology. Give them books to read about him. If they are little kids who cannot read, read it to them yourself. Spread the message of equality that all races and equal and no one is above the other on the bases of cast, color or creed.
- Work in a way that directly helps the Black community
Volunteer for helping the black community directly. There are a lot of black communities that still suffer due to the racial discrimination and injustice. The King Center advocates the Martin Luther King Day to be a Day On Rather than a Day off and strives to work for the betterment of African American community.
- Take action against racism
Where ever you see people indulging in the acts of racism, speak up against it. Be the shoulders and hands of the weak. Stand up tall, and be the shield wall for the brothers and sisters because no one is children of lesser God.
- Talk with African American Brothers and Sisters
It’s a common fact that a communication gap creates much more problems and makes them seem bigger than what they already are. And Martin Luther King himself once said, “Love is a force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
We must all make a pledge that we will not end this movement on the Martin Luther King Day and work against racial injustice every day of our lives.