The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will forever be known for his groundbreaking civil rights work, and the third week of January honors this man and his legacy.
“Dr. King is an inspiration for any people to learn from—to not be satisfied with the status quo," noted Ramin Abrishamian, who represents the Baha’i Community of Needham in the Needham Clergy Association.
The Clergy Association is co-sponsoring a community event in Needham celebrating Martin Luther King, organizing the event along with the Needham Human Rights Committee and the Needham Public Schools/Needham METCO program.
The event will be held at . Doors will open at 9:00 a.m., with free breakfast provided by local businesses, and the program will start at 10:00 a.m.
Speakers will include Selectman Moe Handel, Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal, a Needham resident and director of the Islamic Center of Boston, and Needham resident Harmony Wu. There will be performances by the youth choirs of and , the Teen Band Program, the Roxbury Center for Performing Arts and others.
“The purpose is not just to have an event to celebrate Martin Luther King but also to make it a process, the process of understanding diversity, of welcoming diversity, and of finding ways to live in unity with that diversity," Abrishamian said of the Needham program.
"Needham doesn’t have a very large African American community, and not many people of African American descent want to move here because they don’t feel particularly welcome," he continued. "That’s what we’re trying to change. We want this to be a place where people of any background feel comfortable, feel welcome. This is a small step. We’re using this event as a celebration but also just as importantly as a reflection, as an inspiration for our own local needs and aspirations.”
Martin Luther King Day celebrates the birthday of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was born on Jan. 15, 1929.
King grew up drawing inspiration from nonviolent activists like Mahatma Gandhi. Opposing the Jim Crow laws and other segregation acts, King became involved in a plethora of civil rights movements during the 1950s, including the famous Montgomery bus boycott with Rosa Parks.
During the following decade, King organized some of the largest civil rights events in history, including the March on Washington in 1963 in which King offered his “I Have a Dream” speech, arguing for equality among all people.
Through all of his campaigns, King was met with both acceptance and resistance, the latter of which culminated with his assassination in 1968.
To commemorate the work of Dr. King, supporters moved to declare Jan. 15 (King’s birthday) a federal holiday, beginning with Michigan Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Infoplease reports. President Ronald Regan eventually signed the King Holiday Bill in 1983, declaring a holiday on the third Monday of January. The day did not instantly become a holiday in all states, but Massachusetts was among the first in the nation to pass its own bill, enacting a holiday in the 1970s, according to Time Magazine.
King’s message of peace is so far-reaching, in fact, that officials in Memphis, Tennessee, the city in which he was killed, want to name a street after him to forever commemorate his positive work, reports The Associated Press.
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we ask you to share you own stories of standing behind your beliefs and championing equality. Tell us your thoughts on the holiday and the legacy behind it in the comment section below.