Remembering “A Day On Not a Day Off”…
A little over 22 years ago, I remember giving an acceptance speech for receiving one of the Annual MLK Jr. “Living the Dream” Scholarships in my hometown of Champaign, IL. This was award given to senior high school students within Champaign County who were nominated by local teachers, pastors, and/or community leaders. I remember getting the news that I was selected and was filled joy and pride! Receiving this award was significant and carried a tremendous honor. In addition to receiving the honor, each recipient received a copy of the 1991 book “A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.” and was given the task of preparing a mini acceptance speech that spoke to the theme of Dr. King’s “Living the Dream”. Preparing this speech was not necessarily the easiest thing to do, as I wanted to make sure I did justice to Dr. King’s memory. But, when I sat down to write it out I just told myself be honest with your words and speak from the mind and heart. And as I would recite my words, there would be a plethora of thoughts and emotions running through my mind. A few thoughts included, “wow this is such an exciting honor,” … “even though I am young, I know I can bring about change,” … “I too have a dream,” … “this is just the beginning,” … At 17-years old and college-bound my journey was already shifting into gear!!
So as I reflect on another year and another MLK Birthday Celebration, I think back to all the many moments in which I have given my time and service to making sure this day was not simply just a day off from school or work. For pretty much all my life, I participated in some sort of service activity, panel discussion, workshop, or attended a special event. It just came natural that on the third Monday in January I would be doing my part to keep the dream and legacy of Dr. King alive and well! Nowadays, I make sure to keep that tradition going not just on the one day in January, but throughout the year. As a professor, regardless of the course I teach Dr. King’s memory is discussed. Whether it’s his “I Have a Dream” speech, or “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon, his interesting comparison and relationship with Malcolm X, his contributions to the civil rights movement, or the fact that there is a street (gotta factor in the specific neighborhood) named after him in just about every state in the United States. I will be honest ever since I first learned about him in my pre-K class, I make it my business to gain a new piece of knowledge about Dr. King. He was more than just the “I Have a Dream” speech guy…He was flawed, courageous, charismatic, bold, and simply a human being! At such a young age he was already engulfed in the movement! Knowing that he was the same age I am today (39) when his life was taken, reminds me of all the work he did and would have continued to do!! Which means while there is still breath and life in my body, I still have time and will continue to do my part to make an impact!
“The time is always right to do what is right.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
When it is all said and done, it will be forever be ingrained that this holiday is not just simply a day off, but a day on to reflect, take action, and do something great!!