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Global Celebrations and Awareness: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

This is part of a series of articles we will share to help our audience become better informed about diverse holidays and celebrations happening across the globe throughout the year.

January 16, 2023 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, sometimes called “MLK Day”. The holiday also often aligns with and is a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.s birthday (January 15, 1929).

Brief History of Martin Luther King Jr. and MLK Day:

Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist. He was one of the most prominent leaders in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life to advancing civil rights for BIPOC people in the United States through nonviolence and civil disobedience. He participated in and led several peaceful marches calling for desegregation, the right to vote, and other civil rights. Notably, he oversaw the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and was a leader of the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.”

Martin Luther King Jr. experienced hatred, resistance, and intimidation from segregationist authorities and the FBI (directed by J. Edgar Hoover at the time). During his campaign for civil rights and equality he was jailed several times, spied on, illegally recorded, and threatened by his opposition. Despite this resistance and these hardships, Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Tennessee.

On November 2, 1983 President Ronald Reagan created the federal holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

On January 20, 1986 Martin Luther King Jr. Day was observed as a national holiday for the first time.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy and MLK Day Celebrations Today:

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (celebrated on the third Monday in January) is the only federal holiday designated as a day of service; a great way to honor his legacy and celebrate this holiday is to live by the words and example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”.

So, how can we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in the workplace?

  1. Recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a company holiday or allow floating holidays so that employees can take the day to celebrate.

  2. Encourage learning and education around Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement, and the history of MLK Day by compiling and sharing resources for your employees. Here is an example of an email communication that you can share with your team prior to Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

  3. Coordinate an organization-wide volunteer day to give back to your local community.

Resources for Learning

Explore these Volunteer Opportunities compiled by Teach For America (As an AmeriCorps program, Teach For America’s mission is one that embodies service and community on MLK Day and throughout the year.)

Community-Based Service

Other Service /Volunteer Ideas

  • Catchafire - flexible, virtual volunteer opportunities that match your skill sets and preferred causes.

  • Smithsonian Digital Volunteer program - volunteer to transcribe historical documents

  • The Library of Congress / By the People - a volunteer initiative to improve search, readability, and access to handwritten and typed documents for everyone, including people who are not fully sighted.

  • Letters Against Isolation helps thousands of seniors in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia, and Israel feel less lonely.

  • CareerVillage - a platform where professionals can give career information and advice to underrepresented youth.

  • UPchieve – be a virtual tutor through this online platform connects low-income students in the U.S. with live, volunteer coaches.

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