By Kristin Trent
DAVIS, CA – Monday Jan. 17 marked the 36th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day), a day that honors the life and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement champion, Dr. King. Using his gift for public speaking, King wrote many speeches which he delivered to the public that helped him further the fight for racial justice and freedom. The events scheduled on MLK Day echo his legacy by giving back to the community in similar ways.
King was a celebrated Baptist Minister most known for the speeches he wrote condoning nonviolence. King’s membership to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference serves as an example of his efforts to aid the community. During his lifetime, King made great strides towards furthering the freedom of Black Americans by leading The Montgomery Bus Boycott, organizing The March On Washington, and leading The Birmingham Campaign. Due to these efforts he is credited with bringing about the end of legally mandated segregation.
Although King is greatly admired in the modern era, during his own lifetime, he was a controversial figure. MLK Day took 32 years to establish as a federal holiday demonstrating the reluctance of the government to honor his legacy.
Furthermore, it has been suggested that the Civil Rights Movement leader’s death was caused by the FBI. A number of informed people, including King’s own family, believe his alleged assassination by James Earl Ray was a framing at the hands of the FBI. King’s accomplishments and social force gave him incredible power over public opinion which some viewed as a threat.
The early life experiences King had informed his nonviolent protests as an adult. Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia in the segregated south, King’s neighborhood introduced him to the idea of black empowerment.
King’s childhood home is now a national historic site. When he grew up there, it was known as a place of flourishing Black business, allowing King to see how African Americans could prosper. The early sense of community King had as a result of his close extended family and thriving neighborhood created an important connection to his cultural identity.
When King was six, his white friend told him that he could no longer play with King because they had started attending segregated schools. This experience left an imprint on King and marked the beginning of the injustices he would continue to notice throughout his life. In his autobiography, King remembered, “ The climax came when he told me one day that his father had demanded that he would play with me no more. I never will forget what a great shock this was to me.”
People rallied behind King because of his ability to offer hope amidst the active persecution of African Americans.
Dr. King’s last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” delivered to sanitation workers on strike in Memphis encouraged unity, determination, nonviolence, and a hopeful future. King provides hope saying, “For when people get caught up with what is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.”
MLK Day allows citizens throughout the nation to celebrate King’s legacy through public service. The Davis, Woodland, and Sacramento communities hosted a number of give back events during the holiday and continued for a few days after.
The UC Davis Law School held a children’s book drive to provide the NP3 Elementary School in Sacramento with reading materials for their students. The law school also arranged volunteering to paint the facility at Fourth and Hope in Woodland.
The Davis law school also hosted a speaker event with keynote speaker Sterling Anderson, an accomplished screenwriter, author, and winner of multiple awards including the Movieguide Faith & Freedom award as well as three nominations for best screenwriter by the NAACP Image Awards.
In Sacramento, the NAACP and Black Lives Matter hosted a parade in downtown Sacramento. A walk for justice was also held in Dr. King’s honor aiming to bring awareness to wrongful incarcerations in the past and present. The event included a rally and a march, ending at Governor Gavin Newsom’s office.
The Sacramento Kings basketball team additionally put together a five day long agenda of events centered around education and advocacy which include a mentoring session lead by the MENTOR California team.