January 16th, my grandmother celebrates her 97th birthday. January 17th our nation commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 93rd birthday. As we step tentatively into the new year - some of us with new glimmers of hope and others still tending to the wounds of the previous years – we begin to ponder how to celebrate and honor the important days ahead.
Both these birthdays hold significance to me and made me wonder how to find joy and reverence in their life and legacies. What does it mean, this year, to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day given everything that has happened – a year that has blurred, amplified and illuminated the intersections of our personal, political and professional identities and roles? To answer that question, I went back to the archives.
In 1983, Coretta Scott King shared her perspective about how the day should be observed with The Washington Post.
“The holiday must be substantive as well as symbolic. It must be more than a day of celebration… Let this holiday be a day of reflection, a day of teaching nonviolent philosophy and strategy, a day of getting involved in nonviolent action for social and economic progress.”
January 17th, throughout the month, and in our everyday actions we can strive to practice nonviolent action and Beloved Community.
Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence included six principles:
How are you carrying these principles with you as you connect with your neighbors, clients, co-workers, family members and friends? When is the last time you spoke out to replace an unjust or inequitable policy? Or had a courageous conversation about inclusion in the workplace? Can you articulate how systemic and institutional racism impacts your clients, customers and your business model?
At Unify, I’m working with some incredible people to weave these principles into the new diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) coursework that’s being developed for 2022. I’m inspired by The King Center’s philosophy of Beloved Community as a realistic and achievable goal that could be attained when a critical mass of trained and committed people make nonviolence a way of life. This is one way we plan to honor and celebrate MLK Day all year as we learn to weave it into the fabric of our interactions and operations.
This year, Dr. Bernice A. King calls for MLK Day to be a day on… “a day on to educate, to advocate, and yes, to activate… beyond this one day and beyond the United States.” She extends an invitation from their family and King Center to take meaningful action through the theme, “It starts with me,” shifting our priorities to focus on “voting rights, livable wages, affordable housing, healthcare, quality education, criminal justice reform, green initiatives to address climate change, and other issues related to social, economic, and ecological justice.”
How will you commemorate this day, and more importantly a lifelong practice of Beloved Community and Nonviolence? What does this day mean to you? Here are some additional ideas for inspiration.