Monday marked the 30th anniversary of the federal holiday honoring the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, the culmination of a weekend that also marked the slain civil rights leader’s 85th birthday. Members of the local community joined others nationwide on Monday as they turned out for local events honoring King’s legacy.
A large portion of the day included service, in recognition of the local theme “Engaging the Dream: Conversations to Action.” More than 150 volunteers worked at area schools, volunteering their time, skill and efforts in sprucing up school grounds. It is only fitting that King’s legacy is marked on his namesake holiday through service, but the works to honor this great man shouldn’t carry a 24-hour window each year. If we are to truly carry out King’s legacy we have opportunities to do it every day.
It shouldn’t begin and end on the third Monday in January.
The MLK holiday should serve as a call for us to reflect locally on how we can put King’s words and principles into action - not just during the holiday - all year round.
We remember Dr. King as a crusader for civil rights, non-violence and a messenger for conquering injustices, but he was also a strong proponent of community engagement and activism at the grassroots level to enact change. These are arenas where we can all honor King daily right here at home, through school, government and community.
King also spoke on educational disparities and the power we can wield through our voice and through knowledge. As King once said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
Engagement is a means to activate consciousness, but to do so effectively requires something from all of us. It requires us to absorb information and stay abreast of local issues, not just rely on others to do it for us. It often requires us to challenge the status quo, ask questions and demand answers.
It’s also about widening our circles and inviting everyone to the table to contribute. It’s about diversity not only along racial aspects but diversity of thought that will allow us to hear the views of others, recognize that we may not always agree, but knowing that we can differ and still respect each other because the overall goal for improving Milledgeville and Baldwin County is too important for us to major on minors.
King and others who marched alongside him risked their lives daily championing the fight against injustice and inequality. They risked their lives for a better tomorrow. What we do with that legacy today and how we honor those sacrifices is in our own hands, and we must exhaust every ounce of opportunity we have to honor it.
We owe Dr. King and courageous others that much and so much more.
King once said, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” To honor King’s legacy, we must ask ourselves what matters to us and challenge ourselves to fight for it.