Martin Luther King Day is a US federal holiday. It is celebrated annually on the third Monday of January and is also known as King Day or MLK Day. In some states it is also commonly referred to as Civil Rights Day or Human Rights Day. In recent years it is increasingly seen to be a ‘Day of Service’ when Americans are encouraged to volunteer to help others less fortunate than themselves.
Martin Luther King Day celebrates the birthday of American civil rights leader Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and celebrates his life, achievements and legacy.
King was hugely influential in the American Civil Rights Movement and was a major advocate of non-violent activism in the struggle for the end of racial discrimination under US law. He was assassinated in 1968.
This federal holiday in King’s honor was created in 1983, during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, and first observed in January 1986.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not only for celebration and remembrance, education and tribute, but above all a day of service. All across America on the Holiday, his followers perform service in hospitals and shelters and prisons and wherever people need some help. It is a day of volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutoring those who can’t read, mentoring at-risk youngsters, consoling the broken-hearted and a thousand other projects for building the beloved community of his dream.
Dr. King once said that we all have to decide whether we “will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life’s most persistent and nagging question, he said, is `what are you doing for others?’” he would quote Mark 9:35, the scripture in which Jesus of Nazareth tells James and John “whosoever will be great among you shall be your servant; and whosoever among you will be the first shall be the servant of all.” And when Martin talked about the end of his mortal life in one of his last sermons, on February 4, 1968 in the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, even then he lifted up the value of service as the hallmark of a full life. “I’d like somebody to mention on that day Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others,” he said. “I want you to say on that day, that I did try in my life…to love and serve humanity. We call you to celebrate this Holiday by making your personal commitment to serve humanity with the vibrant spirit of unconditional love that was his greatest strength, and which empowered all of the great victories of his leadership. And with our hearts open to this spirit of unconditional love, we can indeed achieve the Beloved Community of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.
May we who follow Martin now pledge to serve humanity, promote his teachings and carry forward his legacy into the 21st Century.
Martin Luther King Day 2016 is on Monday, January 18, 2016