Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. locks arms with his aides as he leads a march of several thousands to the court house in Montgomery, Ala., March 17, 1965. From left: Rev. Ralph Abernathy, James Foreman, King, Jesse Douglas, Sr., and John Lewis (partially out of frame). (AP Photo)
Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been my favorite holiday since my twenties, when I was first introduced to it as a “Day On” and a “Day of Service.” As my spiritual practice has developed around kindness, service and love, I would be hard-pressed to think of a holiday, or an American, who more fully captures or inspires these values. Whether or not my employer or colleagues have chosen to honor this day, I’ve made it a practice to treat this as a sacred day for the purposes of renewing my hope and sense of purpose, reflecting upon the value of my work to others, and performing actions that serve social justice and bring us closer to the Dream.
When I was living in Denver (and when, well, 2020), I loved to take part in the annual Marade from the MLK statue in City Park to the capitol. Like many things this year, I’m both frustrated and grateful at the work that went into making this a state and federal holiday. Frustrated and dumbfounded that it took 15 years to make this a holiday and that there is still opposition to this holiday.
No matter what else was happening that year, or how I was feeling that day as I walked to the park, I’ve always left the Marade filled up, my faith in humanity restored: by witnessing the true diversity of Denver, by seeing the look of satisfaction on the faces of those who had fought for this day and marched with Martin Luther King Jr., by being part of a mass celebration for a victory more important than a sports team, by honoring the beauty and pride of people and communities that are routinely underappreciated, by seeing families present and knowing that children are still being raised with values that will sustain and heal this world.
Now more than ever, we need MLK Day to restore our hope and renew our purpose. I plan to dedicate this day to good trouble and I encourage you to do the same. As a writer, I’m awestruck by the power of King’s words and voice. I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite MLK quotes:
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
And from his own prescient eulogy: “I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.”