Opinion- Martin Luther King Jr. Day

A day to honor and remember fallen Civil Rights hero



This poster, created from a placard worn by mourning marchers in Memphis, Tennessee, just four days after Martin Luther King’s assassination, hangs on social studies teacher Mandy Murphy’s wall. “When he died, I just felt like it was really sudden, like when I was learning about it in school, like someone killed him,” junior April Grodger said, “and I was like, ‘why? He does so much for this country, and then you just had to kill [him].” Martin Luther King Day is a national holiday that happens on the third Monday of Jan. every year, while King’s actual birthday is on Jan. 15th.

Gianna Ortner-Findlay, Editor-In-Chief

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. Following ministers’ footsteps, King Jr. became a pastor and an advocate for peace and the equalization of the races, promoting these ideals through peaceful protest and eloquent speeches. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee, at 39.

Days after King’s death, Rep. John Conyers introduced the motion to make the Civil Rights Activists birthday a federal holiday. Still, this request wasn’t fulfilled in all 50 states for another 32 years, with the first year it was celebrated as a national holiday being 2000.

As an African American,” social studies and African American studies teacher Frederick Nickens said, “MLK Day gives me a sense of pride that someone that looks like me has a national holiday.”

The bill to make King’s birthday a holiday first came to the House of Representatives floor in 1979 but fell short in a two-thirds majority vote by five votes. As a result, the supporters of this holiday rejuvenated efforts with musician Stevie Wonder releasing the song Happy Birthday to memorialize King.

MLK Day to me means freedom,” forensics teacher Dr. Yoshara Ballou said, “I think of the song We shall overcome and the Negro National anthem. It shows how far we’ve come as African Americans in a world that may belittle or undermine us.”

President Ronald Reagan signed the bill making MLK Day a national holiday into law, Nov. of 1983, with the first celebration in 1986. Yet, 54 years after his death, King Jr. still affects those who learn about him and what he could accomplish for people of color in America with just the power of his voice.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Martin Luther King Jr.

His life definitely impacted my life because, well, it honestly just increased cultural diversity and acceptance in the United States,” senior Marietta Sheehan said, “well, my moms Hispanic, and just, in general, I think everyone’s more accepting because of some of those beginning things he brought about.” 

Since Martin Luther King Jr. Day, people have celebrated the holiday in many different ways, including parades, marches, and even organizing community outreach events that help people in need in the organizations’ area.

MLK Day reminds me that selfless service is one the most important things that we can do as human beings. I truly believe we are on this earth to serve others, and Dr. King’s ultimate sacrifice is the greatest example of this,” Nickens said, “I walk in the Garland MLK Day Parade and remind others that his dream has not been achieved and there is still work to be done.”

MLK Day often begins the festivities and information surrounding Black History Month in Feb. for many. However, while MLK was the first African American with a national holiday, he is not the only one. There are several other holidays for African American difference-makers in Feb. alone, including but not limited to Rosa Parks Day (Feb. 4), Frederick Douglass Day (Feb. 15th.

“As an African American, we were always taught who the pioneers of our race are, with MLK being one of those people,” Ballou said. “My father tells us stories about when he was a young boy growing up in Port Arthur, TX and how he had to ride on the back of the city bus because he was black and drink from the colored water fountain,” she said.

While the distance between the extreme racism of the 1900s feels as if it’s far away, blatant racist acts and microaggressions are prevalent that affect all POC’s, worse in some cases for women of color.

“I couldn’t imagine living in those times, but I’m proud to be an African American, knowing the struggles that my ancestors had to endure to make way for me,” Ballou said. “Therefore, I am motivated and driven to be the best person I can be professionally and personally. I was always taught to stay two steps ahead, being an African American woman,” she said.

All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’ … But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech… Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.

Martin Luther King Jr.

While MLK day has come and gone, the importance of what he stood for can be celebrated and remembered daily by being aware of what’s happening in society and making a change to improve these conditions. Those of us who are not African-American, POC, or an immigrant have a responsibility to be aware of how our words and actions affect those around us and stand up for injustice when we see them happening. Slight differences like this will make our society and world the vision that Martin Luther King had a dream about, the one his memory will inspire into creation.