Why we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is special to us all, commemorating the life of the prominent civil rights leader.

Every third Monday in January, Americans remember Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. But what meaning does this day represent?

Let’s begin with the historical truth behind it. King was a man whose contributions will transcend time. His efforts helped create a world of peace, freedom and equality.

During the Civil Rights Movement (between 1955-1965), African-Americans made great strides toward equality in this country.

Milestones included the Montgomery bus boycotts led by Rosa Parks, who refused to give her seat to a white man. And the acclaimed 1957 Little Rock Nine – nine black students admitted to Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

The students were protected by National Guard troops from furious white citizens who tried to stop them from entering the school. 

Although those events happened only 50 years ago, our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins remember them as if they happened yesterday. 

Have we come a long way since then?

Yes. But we have a long way to go as well.

After King’s assassination in 1968, Congressman John Conyers of Michigan pushed for a day to remember this civil rights leader. It wasn’t until 1983, however, that Congress passed this legislation, signed by President Ronald Reagan, to officially recognize it as a federal holiday.

For me,  Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a time when Americans can sense an everlasting unity that goes beyond the chains of color. It is a day we no longer have to suffer from unjustified treatment from the government or the people. Americans can celebrate being free to dine or sit with any group of people regardless of race or ethnicity. Most importantly, to appreciate the hue of your skin and to wear it with pride whether it’s charcoal black, ivory or somewhere in-between. Like Dr. King said, ” I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.

That day is approaching. Each generation will become more accepting and tolerant of new cultures and customs, keeping Dr. King’s dream alive in the depths of their hearts.