Saturday, January 19, 2008

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Observing the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday

1. DO: Actually give a careful listen to the lyrics of “Happy Birthday,” Stevie Wonder’s tribute song to Dr. King. You’ll find the words powerful. My favorite lines: “And I’m sure you will agree/It couldn’t fit more perfectly/Than to have a world party on the day you came to be…”

2. DON’T: Arrive at any King day event with an R. Kelly song blasting from your car radio.

3. DO: Rent “Boycott” starring Jeffrey Wright, Terrence Howard, and CCH Pounder, and directed by Clark Johnson (of “The Wire” and “Homicide: Life on the Street” fame). Note how it depicts Dr. King as a complex Black man among Black people.

4. DON’T: Go to the movies to see anything with Katt Williams in it on Dr. King’s birthday. No matter what the advertisements say, this is not the very best way to celebrate Dr. King and his legacy.

5. DO: Venture over to the nearest college campus. Colleges always have a variety of free programs for holiday.

6. DON’T: Simply use the day to catch up on your sleep or work (assuming you even have the day off). Instead, meditate on a Dr. King quote and consider how its meaning is relevant today. Two of my favorite Dr. King quotes are: “Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them” and “In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silences our friends.”

7. DO: Explain to your children who Dr. King was and why he remains important. Don’t assume they are ‘getting it in school.’ In his 1968 “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, Dr. King tells this story: "But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter and I’ll never forget it. It said simply, ‘Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.’ She said, ‘While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a White girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune and suffering [Dr. King had been stabbed, and the knife blade rested near his heart]. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”

8. DON’T: Let the day end without reading Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” You can download it, and other important Dr. King documents for free here

9. DO: Spend the day with loved ones.

10. DO: Reflect on the Dr. King holiday using the comment feature of this blog. You may post anonymously by selecting the “any open ID” option (under the pull down menu) when asked to sign-in.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I watched "Boycott" and I agree that it was one of the few moments where you see Dr. King as a complete person. Many times he is seen as a "saintly" figure, but it was refreshing to see him as a complex person dealing with the struggles that we all face.