MLK Day: A day on, not a day off

Martin Luther King Jr., born in 1929, was a civil rights activist and pastor from Atlanta, Georgia, who propelled the civil rights movement of the mid 20th century with his leadership. He gave hope to many African-Americans around the United States and took a stand at combating racial inequality in the nation.

Along with his rise in fame during the 1960s, King gained many enemies and opposition due to his stance on civil rights and peaceful protest. Despite personal death threats and attacks against him and his family, including a bomb thrown into his house in retaliation to the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, King stood strong and maintained his fight for the rights he believed in. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, but his legacy lives on in modern civil rights protests and especially during MLK Day.

Soon after King’s death, a campaign to honor his life works and achievements began, with President Ronald Reagan finally signing the MLK Day holiday into effect in 1983. With King’s birthday being January 15, the holiday was officially recognized on the third Monday of January, close to his birthday.

This year the holiday, recognized on January 21, was given the title ‘the MLK Day of Service’ by the Corporation of National and Community Service. It is considered a day of service because it “is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a ‘Beloved Community,’” and is observed as a “day on, not day off.”

The website of the MLK Day of Service has volunteer opportunities posted for anyone to attend, including anything to help others; it does not just have to be related to civil rights. Volunteer opportunities in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro region include driving a senior to the doctor, the youth cloth bag project, volunteering with churches and more.

Though we just have one day to memorialize Martin Luther King and his monumental achievements, you can sign up to volunteer at any time of the year in his honor by visiting https://www.nationalservice.gov/serve-your-community/mlk-day-service.