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
This year marks The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 95th birthday. 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.
We also appreciate this US News Beat podcast entitled, “MLK: What they Won’t teach in school,” As they explain, 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,” they write, “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 on Long Island
What follows 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.
Hofstra University and Hempstead Village will pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during their annual “Day of Reflection Parade and Ceremony: “I have a dream! The Journey to Reconciliation”
In Newsday (Please mind the paywall. Thank you to all who support local journalism) There’s a report, ”King’s dream remembered on Long Island through service”, and a listing of Events Across Long Island.
Points of Light shares a variety of volunteer activities across the country via 18 Volunteer Opportunities You Can Join to be a Part of 2024 MLK Day of Service
Timeout.com offers MLK 2024 Day of Service, which features over 60 service projects across NYC, Long Island and Westchester.
The Long Island Region of the Poor People's Campaign
Susan recently explained that the LI Region of the Poor People’s Campaign will honor the Rev. Dr. King by staying focused on their work, namely their 2024 Petition to the Governor, “Poor People’s State of the State” report and “Face of the State” video.
They were recently part of a major conference. The aforementioned video and report will distill what was shared there for a broader audience. They are planning a demonstration on Albany March 2nd in coordination with chapters in 30 others states, and will join in delivering the 2024 Report and video to the Governor and other elected officials on March 4th.
You may learn about all of this and more on the NYS Poor People’s Campaign website. As their campaigns actively involve people directly impacted by poverty, a major part of their work is coordinating transportation and otherwise making it possible for people to attend. As such, they will also be working to get people to a rally in Washington DC on June 15th.
They have a petition to Governor Hochul that you may consider here:
To learn more about the Long Island chapter of The Poor People’s Campaign, please contact Susan Karbiner at firstname.lastname@example.org.