Let Freedom Ring: Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Listen to the landmark "I Have A Dream" speech and tell us how you will honor King's legacy.

Monday, Jan. 21 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

For some, the national holiday honoring the prominent civil rights activist is a time to give back and serve the community, be it through removing graffiti or picking up litter in a local park.

For others, it’s an opportunity to learn about King and his life's work. And for others, it’s a time to just kick back and enjoy the prolonged weekend.

So, tell us—What does Martin Luther King Jr. Day mean to you? What are you doing to commemorate King’s legacy?

The Holiday's History

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, now a U.S. holiday, took 15 years to create.

Legislation was first proposed by Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) four days after King was assassinated in 1968.

The bill was stalled, but Conyers, along with Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-New York), pushed for the holiday every legislative session until it was finally passed in 1983, following civil rights marches in Washington. 

Then-president Ronald Reagan signed it into law. Yet it was not until 2000 that every U.S. state celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by its name. Before then, states like Utah referred to the holiday more broadly as Human Rights Day. 

Now, the Corporation for National and Community Service has declared it an official U.S. Day of Service.

What does MLK Day mean to you? Tell us in the comments.

Vito Spago January 21, 2013 at 07:27 PM
Obama is not MLK although MLK is like Bill Clinton in that they screwed anyone with a skirt.
"The Black Panther of Poetry" January 21, 2013 at 07:27 PM
What a much needed and honorable day for all Amerians and just all Human Being, in general. I grew up in Alabama right about the end tip of desegregation. I remember probably in 1967,seeing white people for the first time at school in person. Desegregation open my mind and eyes to see that the haters and racist are really outnumbered and in the minority in the World, in America, and in Benicia too. HAPPY M.L.K. jr Day and love one another!!! CAMP DIVERSITY OF AMERICA They say familiarity breeds contempt. If you subscribe to that philosophy then allow me to vent To be different is to be blessed I mean what if we all were the same Can you imagine the bigger mess Imagine much more madness than we have now It would multiply exponentially I mean wow!! I bet you couldn't stay here No matter the price and would you really want to even to save your own life The simple differences that we fight about those apparent idiosyncs All these things would pale and we would begin to think Think about how precious life is and what past truths we might revamp To quote my father before he died Were all just in a Camp A camp that can fold up anytime Signaling our mortality The apparent and the sublime Out of sight and out of mind  Is my personal vent I hope I got you thinking while preparing to take down your tent
Reginia Sam January 21, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Happy birthday MLK.
EZDuzit January 21, 2013 at 08:07 PM
Must be a wonderful thing to have no personal faults, weaknesses or character lapses. Many people must admire you.
Frank Geefay January 21, 2013 at 09:02 PM
Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my most admired humanitarians. The other one is Mahatma Gandhi. They both stood up for the rights and dignity of all people and used the power of peaceful, nonviolent demonstrations to humiliate their opposition into submission. So powerful was their message and method of demonstration that both were assassinated by guns. But all the assassinations managed to do is make them martyrs and celebrated symbols of their cause. The western world is very violent oriented and does not know how to deal with nonviolence. It is a lesson that we should take to heart but which we continue to ignore. There was another person about 2000 years ago who also employed messages of love, equality, forgiveness and techniques of peaceful demonstrations and was also assassinated. Martin Luther King Jr. literally took the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and extended it to blacks as well as all other racial and other minorities: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,..."
Mark Paxson January 21, 2013 at 09:21 PM
Well said, Mr. Geefay. MLK is also my last real hero. It's a tragedy that his life was cut short and that his dream still needs work. But the fact that we elected and re-elected an African-American as president says, regardless of what the haters out there think, that we are getting ever closer to that dream.
Mark Paxson January 21, 2013 at 09:22 PM
Something tells me Vito wouldn't mind a little Hoover-style violation. ;)
Vito Spago January 21, 2013 at 09:29 PM
I am for Black equality. Did MLK tell them to have babies to increase their welfare check. How about baby Daddy making himself scarce so that baby Daddy would not have to pay alimony and baby Mommy could take from the Government. Did MLK hand out entitlements so that he would get the "Black Vote". "Equal Rights' has been so bastardized that MLK would be outraged and not even recognize it. But go ahead liberals. Make excuses for bad life choices and rejoice in that the black man will wallow in victimhood for the next 1000 years.
David H. Perez January 21, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Martin Luther King is one of my most admired heroes in American history. He pushed for non-violence and equality for all human beings and at the same time never preached hatred toward Whites or any other race - only love, forgiveness and equality. There is much a local extremist racially-based group in Watsonville can learn from Dr. King.
Cathy P. January 21, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Too bad someone's parents weren't more careful with their birth control method.
Reginia Sam January 21, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Vito I sort of understand your frustration , I am African American and yes I had relatives who did take advantage of the system, however, that's one thing I admire about my parents. They always worked hard their entire lives and taught me to work hard as well. They never once took government handouts even when they were laid off. They always found work. So all of us don't take advantage of the system. I including some of my relatives, did work very hard.
Phil Simmons January 21, 2013 at 09:44 PM
The Hercules MLK Celebration at the Hercules Middle School today was a great success. With almost 300 people attending, it started with a live feed of the Swearing in of President Obama, followed by video streams of Martin Luther King, a really good full breakfast thanks to some wonderful sponsors, great speeches, and beautiful singing. The event truly represented the diverse and engaged community of Hercules.
Doc January 21, 2013 at 09:58 PM
@Vito - Very sad you think like that. There are people of ALL races who make bad life choices, and there are many successful African Americans who have successful careers, intact families and who have never received "entitlements" as you call them.
Reginia Sam January 21, 2013 at 11:02 PM
Vito now If he hit and killed a kid and went off That's probably legitimate but I have a nephew whose mother was on welfare for 20 years and cousins who have more kids to get bigger welfare checks. Believe it or not That's why we became Republicans. But still. Not all blacks are leeche.
Jacqueline Ann Edgett Leek January 21, 2013 at 11:08 PM
I totally respected and appreciated Martin Luther King. He was a great man! I mourned his death. We need more men like Martin Luther King. He was a beautiful person. I am honored to celebrate his life. I wonder if he would have stood with our President, if he were still with us today.
Mark Paxson January 21, 2013 at 11:27 PM
Exactly, Regina, it has nothing to do with the color of their skin, a concept Vito apparently doesn't understand.
Frank Geefay January 22, 2013 at 12:19 AM
You need to keep things in proper perspective. Blacks were slaves and totally uneducated only 150 years ago. In that time many have become very well educated and one even got re-elected as President of all these United States, the highest office in the nation, by the majority of voting Americans for 4 more years. I think black Americans in general have come a very long ways since Martin Luther King. Jr. This is not to say that they can’t go further. What is the excuse of white Americans who have never been uneducated slaves but who remain on welfare for generations? I'm not trying to mock poor white Americans. I'm only trying to make a point: being black is not the cause of poverty. Historical circumstances for people of all races result in a certain percent of poverty. White Americans have had over 250 years to reduce their poverty. So give black Americans another 100 years and they will be as free or encumbered with poverty as white Americans or any other race.
Frank Geefay January 22, 2013 at 01:02 AM
I believe that Martin Luther King Jr. is not just symbolic for black Americans. That is not only why we honor him once a year. He is a bigger than life icon, a symbol of what all Americans should aspire for, to treat everyone fairly and with dignity. He just happened to be black and be born at a critical time in history where his presence was badly needed to remind everyone what the framers of our Constitution strove to achieve for all Americans and how all Americans should be treated, even black Americans. Where do I see Love, Understating, Equity, Respect, Dignity, Charity, Goodness, and Forgiveness for which MLK embodied in some of the comments just made above. Where are the good Samaritans, turn the other cheek, and Love thy neighbor of some people calling themselves good Christians but who instead spew the bad blacks, turn on those who strike you, and hate thy neighbor with a vengeance? Not only do some black Americans still have a way to go, so do many white Americans, and it has less to do with poverty than it does with a state of mind.
pamylla January 22, 2013 at 01:50 AM
Sad that people like Vito just don't "get it." Regardless of the good and bad in all races, we have to hold on to the hope for a better world! That's what MLK was all about, in my opinion.
M.Legison January 22, 2013 at 04:57 AM
There are numerous criticisms of MLK and Rosa Parks too, and certainly there's some truth to them, but each did a lot more good than bad. MLK was a great man. I can't help but think he'd roll over in his grave if he could see how Obama is running the country. MLK only asked for equal opportunity. Obama wants everyone to be equal. People are not equal.
Rupunzel January 22, 2013 at 06:23 AM
Dr. Martin Luther King was a great man, an icon for this country and for standing up with his bravery and truely spoken words. Today, we live in his dream. There are some who did live through the sixties and understand what it feels like.
Cynthia Marcopulos January 22, 2013 at 06:29 AM
There will never be another great humanitarian and true crusader of human rights than Dr. King. It's too bad, because we need someone like him now more than ever esp. since our elected politicians care more about those corporations that fund them than the people they're supposed to serve and represent.
Roberto January 22, 2013 at 07:48 PM
He did some good things and gave some great speeches. but I just can't support his lifestyle. He was a noted skirt chaser and committed adultery more than a few times. His morals and ethics were in the toilet. But Hey, on the bright side, he would have made a good Congressman.
Reginia Sam January 22, 2013 at 09:03 PM
Roberto, good congressman, good president and don't forget good Governor. In other words, name a politician that hasn't cheated. What else is new?
Frank Geefay January 23, 2013 at 11:32 PM
We are not celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. as a saint. We are celebrating him for what he accomplished and the legacy which he left behind. Many of the greatest people throughout history had less than stellar morals. That does not belittle all the good they did for mankind. Only people with limited vision think that way.


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