It is undeniably true that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has left Black Americans with a significant burden to complete what he began while not relying on the promises made in the past.
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday will commemorate the 28th year of the annual day of service on January 16, 2023. This day was created to celebrate Dr. King’s life and legacy and to inspire all Americans to volunteer in their communities.
Many still dream of one day being united and not divided.
Faye Nelson, director of Michigan Programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation told the Mihcigan Chronicle that racial healing sits at the very heart of and is essential to the goal of realizing Dr. King’s dream, which she reflects on especially during this time.
“It is a process for connecting, building relationships and bridging divides so that communities can work together toward a more equitable future. By starting with conversations that allow authentic stories to be told, racial healing gives us a chance to learn from each other, build trust and empathy and forge a path forward, together,” Nelson said adding that Detroiters have played an essential role in the fight for racial equity. “From its role as the final stop on the Underground Railroad, through its centrality in the Civil Rights Movement, to its leadership in today’s social justice movement.”
Nelson adds that Martin Luther King Jr. Day represents the annual commemoration of the life and death of a principled man of courage, who lived a life of service, one who possessed a vision of racial equity.
“As we honor the National Day of Racial Healing on January 17, an annual observance established by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that occurs on the Tuesday following Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we encourage people to speak openly, share their personal experiences on race and racism and learn the truth about our shared history,” she said. “Locally, I’m inspired by the work of one of our grantees, Detroit Equity Action Lab at Wayne State University, as they partner with the community in hosting their own “National Day of Healing from Racism” event. It is a wonderful example of Detroiters embracing the opportunity that the National Day of Racial Healing presents to build trust and inspire collective action toward a more just and equitable society.”
On Monday, January 20, 1986, Americans observed the first-ever Martin Luther King Day, which is the only federal holiday honoring an African-American. A “Day On, Not a Day Off,” the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is observed annually on the third Monday in January thanks to a 1994 congressional proclamation that made the occasion a national day of service.
In order to end racial oppression, Dr. King promoted nonviolent opposition to injustice. He enacted change through planned sit-ins, marches, and nonviolent protests that brought inequality’s problems to light. The youngest person to ever earn the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King received it in 1964. He entered the ministry to become a Baptist pastor, following in the traditions of his grandfather and father. He was killed on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, when he was 39 years old.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,” Dr. King once famously wrote in his letter from Birmingham, Alabama jail, April 16, 1963.
Lifelong Detroit resident Ray Smith, who remembers growing up with pictures of Jesus Christ, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and then-President John F Kennedy on the mantle of his family’s home, said previously that the holiday is about reflection.
Smith is one of many local and Detroit men who exemplify what Dr. King spoke about carrying out the good job of advancing equality and equity for all, including those who are still hoping to overcome someday.
Black Bottom Group (BBG) President Smith told the Michigan Chronicle that BBG started the State of Michigan History Center process that resulted in the Black Bottom Historical Marker recognizing Black Bottom Detroit as a legally recognized historical area last summer. BBG is a multipurpose media, education, and entertainment company in Detroit. The Michigan Historical Commission authorized the BBG to install a historical marker after nearly three years of work on it.
The state historical marker is at Lafayette Central Park, 1500 E. Lafayette, Detroit. The marker highlights famous Black Bottom residents such as Coleman A. Young, Joe Louis and Ralph Bunche.
“I’m part of the city of Detroit and I am a resident who keeps doing the work and turning the wheels of justice to make sure that we are doing our part,” Smith said.
Smith added that if Dr. King were here today he would look and say that, “The harvest is great but the laborers are few.”
“Whatever part you play make sure you play it [so that it] uplifts the Black community as well,” he said. “The dream still lives on — he lives on through the work we do. … It starts with us.”