Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a personal hero of mine. I grew up in a home passionate about correcting social injustice, especially injustices tied to race. My father gave me my first collection of Dr. King’s sermons when I was thirteen. By page five, I had I fallen in love with the great man’s perspective, vision, and philosophy.

3 Ways to Celebrate MLK Day as a Writer

Since that year, I’ve worked to make the celebration of his life more than just a day off of work and school. I try to make it an opportunity for personal challenge and an occasion to focus on developing my children’s character.

3 Ways to Celebrate MLK Day

Today, I’d like to give you three ways that you too can honor the great leader.

1. Soak in His Words

It may be that you haven’t ever experienced Dr. King beyond what you’ve seen in school. Today is a great day to spend some time soaking in his perspective. Most have heard the “I Have a Dream” speech. He gave many wonderful talks and was one of the greatest speakers in history.

Below are links to three speeches he gave that I think are challenging and world-changing. They are all free to listen to online. Tonight, my five kids and I will sit on our couch and listen to a few.

Take an hour today, listen to one of the following speeches, and then write a reflection.

“The Three Evils of Society” was given in August of 1967 at the National Conference for New Politics.

In that same year, on that same month, Dr. King preached a sermon at Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church entitled “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool.” 

In 1968, Dr. King gave his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.” Knowing that he was killed shortly after, the speech always brings me to tears.

2. Share Personal Experience

Many of us have witnessed or experienced racial injustice. Today is a day to put those experiences to work. The world needs to understand that racial injustice is real. Today, share your story. Write it down and post it on a blog.

And if you have ever been the perpetrator of racial injustice—which to my great sorrow, I must confess that I have—today is a good day to write an apology and commit never to find yourself in that position again.

3. Seek to See the World Differently

In his speech “Where Do We Go from Here?” Dr. King said,

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.”

In order to avoid falling into the trap that Dr. King mentions, take a second right now and email someone you know of a different race. In the email, say, “I’m seeking to understand how your experience has been different than mine. Please help me learn. Would you mind talking to me about how your race impacts your life?” Ask them to write about it for you or ask them to meet you for coffee or talk with you over the phone.

Keep in mind that in this conversation you are the learner, not the teacher. You are not to comment. You are not to contradict. You are not to question unless it is for clarification. You must simply listen and learn.

How Will You Celebrate Dr. King?

This day can be more than an extra day of vacation. Will you take the time to challenge yourself, listen to others’ perspectives, and grow?

How do you celebrate MLK Day? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Choose one of the three challenges above and do it:

  • Watch one of Dr. King’s speeches and reflect on it.
  • Write about your personal experience with racial injustice and share it with someone else.
  • Reach out to someone different from you and listen to their perspective and experience.

Post your work in the comments below.

Jeff Elkins
Jeff Elkins
Jeff Elkins is a writer who lives Baltimore with his wife and five kids. If you enjoy his writing, he'd be honored if you would subscribe to his free monthly newsletter. All subscribers receive a free copy of Jeff's urban fantasy novella "The Window Washing Boy."