I was born way after Martin Luther King Jr was killed.
But when I was a kid, a holiday in his honor was signed into law by Ronald Regan, who was pretty much forced into it by a veto-proof Congressional backing. (338 – 90 in the House; 78 – 22 in the Senate)
That was in 1983.
In 1986 it became an official holiday.
But not everywhere.
Not in New Hampshire where I was growing up.
N.H. tried VERY hard to not observe the holiday. So did other states. When I was a kid, I was part of the Martin Luther King Day Coalition.
The goal of the group was to have N.H. recognize the holiday. We had a lot of potlucks, a lot of lobbying, a lot of information collated. I licked a lot of envelopes.
It seemed ridiculous that in the 1980s people had to work so hard to get some states to do what was right: to recognize the contributions towards civil rights and human rights that one man gave his life for.
But they eventually did it.
South Carolina even eventually did it in 2000.
And people are still working really hard towards civil rights and human rights even during a pandemic. People out there are working, thinking, learning, exploring. People are confronting bigotries in themselves and in their workplaces or families or books.
And some aren’t.
Martin Luther King Jr. did a heck of a lot to make this country a better place, a place where one day, hopefully, race or nationality or gender or religion or sexuality won’t determine a person’s worth, won’t determine a person’s wage, won’t determine a person’s rights.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that in certain things we’ve come a long way. We still have such a way to go, but … that man, the people who worked with him, the people who worked with those same goals and who do work with those same goals in 2021, they are all my heroes.
One day to honor that sacrifice, that drive, that push towards equity and fairness isn’t much. One day is tiny compared to what they did and what some people are doing right now.
My thanks goes out to all of them. And if you’re reading this? My thanks goes out to you, too.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for existing. I hope you have the space and safety to fill your lives (and others) with hope and love.
There are so many ways to never give up, to persist, to create change in yourself and in your community. For a lot of us writers, it’s really hard to keep writing in such a subjective field with so many gatekeepers everywhere, but it’s also really important to not give up. Not if you want to make change. Not if you want your story to be out there.
Don’t give up. Okay? Your stories need to be told.
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