By Jamie Kirk
Not the non-violent protest. Not his ability to turn the other cheek, and for asking to be treated fairly. Not his eloquent manner and gracious approach to humanity. Not his begging and pleading to help gain black people the right to vote, to use the same water fountain, to ride the bus or just plain ol’ being treated with dignity and respect. The most important part of acknowledging Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day is that we don’t have to go to work, schools are closed, there is no mail, and the banks are closed. Now that I have your attention; allow me to explain.
The reason I feel it is so important to be “off” on this day, is so that we can be “on.” Be turned “on” to reading about his legacy, be turned “on” to learn about the history of the King Center, to be turned “on” to the uphill battles he fought, that didn’t make the mainstream newspaper and TV stations. It’s our chance to be turned “on” to giving back to our communities.
We have lost our way regarding the civility that comes along with being a great nation, and even a great city. We have turned every topic (sports, politics, neighborhoods, and even basic/common NORMAL language like saying Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays into an all-out debate with two very opposite sides. We have turned into a bunch of hard-headed folks that feel everything is a black or white issue. And that is not the case. There are gray issues, purple issues, red issues, etc. The point is to focus on the issues, not the distracting noise around it.
Taking a day “on” gives us time to re-calibrate and focus on what is essential. It’s a chance to educate our ourselves on the Civil Rights Movement, the successful (and unsuccessful) boycotts, and seek out information that will make us more productive and informed citizens of this great United States of America. Which has always been great, by the way.
We have to turn ourselves “on” to information, so it’s time to log off Instagram, log out of Facebook, stop texting and driving, put down our homework, and become more informed about MLK Jr. For instance, did you know:
- At the time of his death, even though he was only 39, an autopsy revealed that MKL Jr. had the heart of a 60-year-old likely due to the stress of his life.
- MLK Jr. skipped the 9th and 12th grades (because he was just that smart) and entered Morehouse at the tender age of 15.
- When MLK Jr. married Coretta Scott King, they were not allowed to stay in a whites-only hotel, so instead had to spend the night in a black-owned funeral home.
- Over 900 streets worldwide have a street named Martin Luther King Jr.
- MLK Jr. is one of ten world martyrs of the 20th Century who is depicted in life-sized statues at the entrance of the Westminster Abbey in London.
These tidbits of information are hidden gems that you can only know by seeking out the information. Not allowing the media to force-feed you information, but getting the facts for yourself. We can’t allow a President, a friend, a family member, or anyone to dilute the fact that MLK Jr.’s work should not be forgotten and definitely should not be avoided.
When we get so busy with our hectic lives and watch mindless TV shows, we are indeed avoiding the teachings of MLK. Jr. We are not doing the work of helping our neighbor, being charitable, or even paying attention to someone that may be “stuck” or in trouble. We are simply distracting ourselves from what is happening right in front of our faces. When someone like Roy Moore is even allowed to get as far as he has gotten in life, with his track record of immoral and unethical antics, we are indeed turned “off.”
Are there more people voting these days? Kinda. Are we more informed and paying attention to politics, not just at the national level? Kinda. Are we moving the needle towards equality for ALL? Kinda. This “kinda” approach needs to be more consistent and deliberate. We need to continually care-front those that feel any level of bias or a situation that lacks equality is “okay.” We must do nothing but stay tuned in and turned “on” to issues that matter to us all.
Everyone knows someone that is a #metoo. This movement is about anyone and everyone impacted by ageism, sexism, or racism. There is not one person reading this article that has not been touched by someone or impacted by discrimination because of who they are, who they love or how they look. It is up to each of us to start each day committed to doing more than using a hashtag. We need to commit to taking day after day after day after day, as a fresh start and be better human beings. Not taking Monday off, but taking it ON. Taking on this day and every day to help keep Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream stay alive and well. We have the day “off,” let’s make him proud by deserving it through supporting his legacy and dream. We cannot allow his dream to be deferred.
Jamie Kirk works for a software company and is a certified spinning instructor. He also enjoys yoga, swimming, bicycling and running. He aspires to start a blog about what we put in our bodies not only fuels our body but our mind and spirit as well. Follow Jamie on IG @tysonsdad