Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: To Reflect and Serve

Photo of MLK Monument in Washington DC

The third Monday in January is reserved to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is the only federal holiday formally recognized as a national day of service, “a day on, not a day off.”

A Day of Service and Reflection

According to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, this day “calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a ‘Beloved Community.’”

In the spirit of listening and thinking first, people are warmly encouraged to study the works of King, and to devote time to serious reflection on how we will endeavor toward a healthier, more just world for all.

The American Writer’s Museum is a good place to start. On a page dedicated to King, there is a list of some important speeches he made during his life. The review includes favorite quotes, but they strongly encourage folks to read and watch the speeches in their entirety so you may begin to understand the full depth of Dr. King’s radical work.

Also encouraged is a deep dive into, The King Center, and a visit to the official Facebook Page for Martin Luther King, Jr. 

We also really appreciate this US News Beat podcast entitled, “MLK: What they Won’t teach in school,” It explores, “King, Jr.’s legacy, examining how the civil rights icon was so much more than simply the ‘I Have a Dream’ soundbite. Along with Pastor Roger C. Williams of the First Baptist Church of Glen Cove, NY, Larry Hamm of Newark, NJ-based People’s Organization for Progress, hip-hop artist Silent Knight, and King’s own words, listeners learn of MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign, which he believed would be his true legacy. More than likely, it was this that got him killed.”

The Poor People’s Campaign

On his own last birthday, January 15th 1968, the Rev Dr Martin Luther King was in a planning meeting for the Poor People’s Campaign. For a man who preached radical love and action-oriented nonviolence, and who understood how truly difficult a path this is, this may have been his most profound notion: That repairing the ills thrust upon African Americans requires repairing ills thrust upon all.

According to The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University’s page on The Poor People’s Campaign,  “Seeking a “middle ground between riots on the one hand and timid supplications for justice on the other,’ King planned for an initial group of 2,000 poor people to descend on Washington, D.C., southern states and northern cities to meet with government officials to demand jobs, unemployment insurance, a fair minimum wage, and education for poor adults and children designed to improve their self-image and self-esteem (King, 29 November 1967).”

The page continues, “’This is a highly significant event,’ King told delegates at an early planning meeting, describing the campaign as ‘the beginning of a new co-operation, understanding, and a determination by poor people of all colors and backgrounds to assert and win their right to a decent life and respect for their culture and dignity’ (SCLC, 15 March 1968).” You can read more on the Wikipedia page dedicated to the campaign.

King only made it a few months into the campaign before he was assassinated on April 3, 1968, leaving Ralph Abernathy, Sr. to carry on. More recently, in 2018, the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II of Repairers of the Breach and the  Rev. Liz Theoharis of the Kairos Center joined with others to launch “The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival” to rekindle and carry that flame forward. Said Long Island Coordinator, Susan Karbiner, “We give it our best to follow the path we believe King would have chosen. Some things, like advancing voting rights for all are fairly obvious, but we’ve incorporated other things as well, such as overcoming environmental devastation and Climate Change, which we can only infer that King, based on his speeches, would have embraced our involvement in.

Honoring the Rev. Dr. King Today on Long Island

To learn about the Long Island chapter of The Poor People’s Campaign, please contact Susan Karbiner at 

Here’s an article in Newsday about students and their work featured in the NYS Fine Arts and Essay Exhibition.

This Patch article offers a diversity of events from weekend, including ones in Rockville Centre, Long Beach, Port Jefferson, Islip. The Hamptons and Cold Spring Harbor, as well as other opportunities to reflect and serve.

This Long Island Press piece talks about events, including the annual parade in The Village of Hempstead (also featured in this News12 Piece ), and how libraries, such as Elmont  and Half Hollow Hills  are honoring the day by hosting live performances.

This is just the smallest sampling of ways to honor and advance the legacy of the Rev. Dr. King. A multitude of local organizations offer their own events, many of which are now live streamed. What are your reflections? Who has moved you? How will you spend this day and what might you do tomorrow? Let us know!