Today, millions of people around the world will pause to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Born January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, GA, Dr. King went on to study at the all-male, historically black college, Morehouse. He also studied theology at Crozer Theological Seminary and later earned his doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University. A minister at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, it was his strategy of nonviolent activism that elevated him as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.
Dr. King is well renowned for his writings and speeches. From the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to the “I have a dream” speech, his words are the cornerstone of the civil rights canon, as well as the American and global movements for equality. He helped lead landmark civil rights events like the Montgomery bus boycott and the March on Washington, which ultimately gave way to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.Martin Luther King, Jr.
Following his assassination in 1968, a campaign was launched to preserve his legacy of nonviolent, peaceful protest in the form of a federal holiday. The bill to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday, was signed into law November 2, 1983. The King Holiday and Service Act, which was signed into law August 23, 1994, recognized the holiday as a national day of service.
In our effort to honor Dr. King’s legacy and to continue our commitment to a more diverse, inclusive, and service-oriented company culture, we reached out to a few members of our Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee to share their reflections on Dr. King’s legacy and how his teachings have impacted their lives.
The inherent value of service to others
As a young child, I always felt an intrinsic connection to Dr. King. In part because MLK Day and my birthday would occasionally be celebrated on the same day. My curiosity about Dr. King evolved as I learned more about his ideals: civil rights for all, being judged by the content of one’s character, and economic justice for the disenfranchised.
In the sixth grade, I took part in a play based on Dr. King’s life. While I didn’t get the lead role, I decided to immerse myself in learning more about him, as well as the events of the Civil Rights Movement. Around that time, I began to volunteer at a program my mother was involved in, Community Outreach To Adolescents Of Parents With HIV/AIDS (COAP). The program worked with 200+ children from the South Bronx whose parents were affected by HIV/AIDS.
During my six years volunteering at COAP, I learned Dr. King’s greatest lesson: the ability to add value and do for others is both the beginning and end of anything worthwhile in life.
Errol McKenzie, Jr. | Director, Customer Success | Atlanta, GA
The importance of empowerment
Dignity. Peace. Equality. Community. Reflecting on Dr. King’s legacy, I’ve always felt connected to his ability to see hope and positivity in humanity. His notion of “Beloved Community” stayed with me as I grew up. Dr. King’s global vision for an inclusive community and united society is rooted in providing equal opportunity, fostering economic and social justice, and loving and respecting one another.
Acts of service are the best way to bring together people regardless of background, age, or ability. In my family, we emphasize the importance of helping and empowering one another by finding ways to serve and strengthen our local communities through volunteer work. After having children of my own, I’ve learned that service can begin at a young age when children can engage in simple activities like making cards for those in need or helping to identify clothes, books, and toys to donate.
To me, there’s no better time than now to take Dr. King’s message to heart. If we want future generations to live in a world that is inclusive, fair, and caring, acts of kindness and service are the best place to start.
Jen Fong | Director, Solution Consulting | Chicago, IL
The power of peaceful collaboration
In a world so divided, it’s more important than ever to celebrate the legacy of MLK. His drive to be a voice for people of colour, at a time when their voices went unheard, was a true act of courage. His display of unity through community and peace, for me, is an example of true leadership and should inspire everyone, even today.
On celebratory days like this, I often reflect on a person’s impact and the reasons behind it. For me, MLK’s embrace of peaceful protests and his work to bring together the oppressed, demonstrates that peaceful collaboration is more powerful than we can imagine. I’m also mindful not to confuse kindness with weakness. Standing up for human and civil rights in a peaceful, nonviolent way, is not weakness. It’s incredibly strong and takes a great deal of courage—certainly more of what we need in the world right now.
Michelle Cachuco | Director, Customer Success | London, United Kingdom
Celebrating Dr. King is more important than ever
On August 28th of 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” George Floyd’s death last year reminded us that although we’ve made some progress, there is still so much we have to do as individuals and as a society.
The global response to George Floyd’s death made me proud, as people came together to stand up for justice. I also felt sadness for all other victims of systemic racism. I started to have hard conversations with family, friends, co-workers, and strangers about what equality, diversity, and inclusion meant for them. I was surprised by the mixed responses and interest in the subject, which made me question: Why is it taking us this long?
In the year 2021, we can no longer continue to accept inequality. It is our responsibility to unite and do what’s in our power to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. We must live these values daily–not just when something unfortunate happens. We can start small—every effort and positive interaction counts.
Celebrating Dr. King is not just important, it’s necessary. His inspiring legacy continues to remind us that “NOW IS THE TIME.” No matter a person’s race, background, or economic status, we must acknowledge the divisions that still exist in our society and we must reject them.
As a Latina, and mother of two young boys, I share Dr. King’s dream that they will get to “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – MLK
Zoe Schultze | Team Lead, Strategic Consulting | Miami, Florida
The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.Martin Luther King, Jr.
As we take today to reflect on Dr. King’s contributions to society, we’re grateful for his enduring vision. We encourage our employees to continue to honor Dr. King’s legacy of service and commitment to equality and justice. For more information and resources on MLK Day, please visit americorps.gov.