Modern Issues Scrutinized Accordingly: ‘Not a day to go to sleep,’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day is more than just a day off


Sam Misa, Photographer

President of the OSU chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, Quentin Onyemordi, gives a speech during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Peace Breakfast at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center on Jan. 17. Rather than just a three day weekend, MLK Day should be a day to honor the legacy and life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Sam Misa, Columnist

Editor’s Note: This column does not represent the opinion of The Daily Barometer. This column reflects the personal opinions of the writer.

Made a federal holiday under the Reagan administration in 1983 and observed nationally for the first time in 1986, Martin Luther King Jr. Day can and should be more.

The main purpose of MLK Day is to honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all the work he did for the American Civil Rights Movement. However, it is also a time to highlight some of the values King stood for in his life and in passing, such as change through nonviolent protest and giving back to the community through public service.

Many people tend to forget what MLK Day is supposed to be and only value the fact that it offers a three-day weekend in January. MLK Day is supposed to mean so much more, and we have lost sight of what we are meant to do with this day.

“I always grew up celebrating Dr. King,” said Terrance Harris, director of the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center. “It wasn’t a day off. We always say it’s not a day off. It’s a day on… It’s about doing exactly what he echoed and not just waiting for one day out of the year to do it.”

According to Harris, we should be giving back, making a difference and fighting for the freedom and rights of people every day of the year.

“Even in 2022, we are still fighting for rights,” Harris said.

There are a thousand different ways to give back to our communities and while that does no tnecessarily mean volunteering, simply making posts on social media does nothing except add to the sense of lethargy when it comes to change.

“People tend to have a weekend or they ain’t going to school or class on that Monday,” Harris said. “But that’s not what [MLK Day] is all about. It’s about service. It’s about giving back… I’ve never had a day of MLK where I was not doing something. In the 37 years I’ve been on this earth, I’ve never had that… It’s not a day to go to sleep.”

Even if people don’t do it on MLK Day, service to the community is something we can all provide at any time to honor the memory of King, someone who sacrificed so much for countless generations. 

“We’re honoring this man who was taken from us,” Harris said. “Who did so much in working with other people— [MLK Day] is not even exclusive to the other people that were a part of this movement, and some of them are still around today. But it’s the fact that he was able to bridge so many people together. Yes, he does deserve that, and we deserve to give him all of his flowers every year.”

On Jan. 20, three days after MLK Day, the Linn-Benton branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will host a remote reading and discussion of King’s works from 6-7:15 p.m. This is the exact kind of activity we should be doing to honor King.

“The purpose of this event is to showcase some of Rev. Dr. King’s meaningful contributions made to the NAACP—the nation’s oldest civil rights organization—and to collectively engage in conversations around how we as a community can continue to mobilize and operationalize our efforts toward justice for all,” said Jason Dorsette, president of the Linn-Benton branch of the NAACP. 

According to Dorsette, the branch hopes King’s writings will illustrate his contributions and inform people who attend the event that the NAACP and King’s connections are intentional and still needed today.

For other ways to honor King’s life, a list of celebration events is available on OSU’s website.

Was this article helpful?