Are we really honoring MLK?


People protesting for racial equality. (Doran Bastin/Flickr)

Jo Samuels, Web Editor

Every year on Jan. 15 our country pauses to honor the civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. King gained popularity during the civil rights movement with his non-violent leadership. Shortly after his death, John Conyers who was a democratic congressman from Michigan insisted on honoring King and his legacy with a Federal holiday. The first bill failed, but he persisted numerous times and gained more support along the way. By the 1980s, CBS received 6 million signatures in favor of the holiday. On Nov. 3, 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a bill making the third of every January a Federal holiday honoring MLK’s accomplishments. 

Although Jan. 15 is a Federal holiday and people are out of school and work it is also considered a day on not a day off. This day is a time to “empower people, build community, bridge barriers, find solutions to social problems,” and focus on King’s vision of a “beloved community.” This day is a call to serve our community and honor the life and legacy of King. On January 15th the National Park Service will open 110 park sites without charge to help inspire and motivate people. This purposeful holiday not only inspires people to be more active is their community but also reminds us of the late activist and how much he did for our country. Kira, a sophomore at The Weber School said, “We must make sure we don’t only recognize him today, but everyday, because each day we live—he played a part in creating.”

During this holiday weekend many people do various service projects in their community or go out of town to reflect as a way to honor King’s legacy. There are many service opportunities around Atlanta during this weekend. Hands on Atlanta, Georgia Tech, and Decatur are all hosting major service opportunities. 

Although this holiday is known nationwide, students have a day off, and many service projects are available around the country, are we really doing our part? Have we achieved his goal? We should be honoring him 365 days a year, not only one.  Why are we out of school and work. If this is a day on, how do we assure this? This is a time where are country remains and there is still racial tension. It seems hypocritical to quote and preach him if we are not living up to the standards he set for us. Even though we have come so far, the issues King faced over 50 years ago are very relevant today in our world. King wrote. “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away…” It seems we have a long way to go. This day can be a reminder of how far we have come but also how far we have to go.