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. They recently held a three-day global summit, which you may find under the video section here.
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 this 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.
Today’s Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
Here are a few events the organization is holding. To learn more about The Poor People’s Campaign on Long Island, please contact Susan Karbiner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Witness a recent livestream launching the Campaign’s season of moral direct action.
TODAY, Monday, January 17th
From 12:30-3pm: Organizers of the LI region will come together to screen and discuss “The Doctrine of Discovery.”
The event will feature NYS Tri-chair and Theomusicologist, Jamel Coy Hudson and members of the Setalcott and Shinnecock Nation on Long Island. RSVP for the Doctrine of Discovery event here.
From 4-6pm: Learn the history of the Poor People’s Campaign and actions they encourage right now.
Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis will be featured. Leaders in the NYS campaign will share their experiences and insights. Faith Leaders will be involved, sharing collectively the religious traditions that ground the campaign. There will be learning, song and invitation to take action together. RSVP for Remembering Rev Dr Martin Luther King JR Continuing The Movement Together here.
From 5-7pm: Poor People’s Campaign Organizers will join with numerous NY groups, including the Albany County Central Federation of Labor and the Albany NAACP
This livestream, “Labor and Community: United for Social Justice.” will include reflections on King’s legacy, a documentary on a sanitation worker strike that changed the civil rights movement, and a roundtable discussion on the Albany Multi-craft Apprenticeship Preparation Program (MAPP).
Saturday, January 22nd Poor People’s Campaign 101
Learn the history of the Poor People’s Campaign from 1968 to today, its strategies and structure, including specific local and statewide efforts. Discuss the interlocking evils recognized by the Campaign and explore ways to fight systems oppression and lift from the bottom. RSVP for “It’s Movement Time: An Introduction to the NYS Poor People’s Campaign” here.
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!