Are We Celebrating MLK Day as Intended?


Every year we take time to celebrate the things that have dealt us a great fortune, as well as people who have helped set that fate. On the third Monday of each January, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.–a civil rights legend who helped form the colored civil rights movement that plays a very important role in all of our lives to this day. We take time, throughout the day, to recognize his journalistic speech and idolized impressions on our country .

Although the importance of this activist is well displayed by Spring Lake High School, I don’t believe the importance of activism is. I question if the way it is celebrated is how Doctor King, or any member of the colored civil rights movement, would have intended. Many schools get the day off, and to my knowledge not many of them are going out of their way to appreciate the importance of this movement and activist.

Most history classes will study Martin Luther King Jr. on this day, looking back at his life and the events leading up to his assassination; English classes may take time to read over the Letter from Birmingham Jail–observing the craftsmanship and passion it evokes. We spend the entire duration studying these past events, which (don’t get me wrong) are incredibly important, but it takes time away from studying the true necessity of events like this in today’s world. On MLK day,  a member of our student council read off quotes of Dr. King before each class period. Yes, these quotes showed effort of some sort towards defying the significance of  Doctor King’s diligence, but in what way are they portraying the reality of these tragic times and the fact that similar difficulties continue to this day? It seemed that at least one of the quotes didn’t even slightly depict the true severity of the civil rights movement.

“How do you become an activist? What problems are we facing now? What forms of discrimination still exist at country, or even global levels? In what ways is the civil rights movement continuing today?” are questions that I imagine should be answered on MLK day. I question if rather than relearning these historic events, we can learn the art of activism and how to apply it to problems we face in current society. We can witness the forms of racism that we are sheltered from as the city of Spring Lake, and let the true irony sink in. We celebrate the compelling work of historic figures like King while often ignoring the work that still needs to be done today.

By taking the famous day of this incredibly influential individual, and using it to build passionate activists in all of us- I believe we would be doing Martin Luther King Jr. proud, knowing that he was influential not just for what he made possible in his time, but for what he brought out in the students and leaders of the United States, today.