January 16 is Martin Luther King Day. But any day is a great time to do good for the community. Dr. King’s holiday celebrates the civil rights leader’s life by encouraging public service. Here are a few creative ways people of all ages can help the world around them in honor of Dr. King.
Learn from King’s legacy
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center) is once again offering up lessons plans for grades K-12 as part of their global “Teach-In.” The lesson plans include resources and activities exploring the work, teachings and philosophies of Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King. The King Center’s theme for this year’s holiday is “Cultivating a Beloved Community Mindset to Transform Unjust Systems.”
Kelisha B. Graves, the King Center’s Chief Research, Education, and Programs Officer, says the lessons will help “translate the overarching theme into concrete examples and demonstrations that students can absorb.”
“One of the things that Mrs. King used to always talk about was being your best self and that’s the essence of all of the learning content that we produce through the King Center, helping to encourage students to be their best selves,” Graves told CNN.
The lesson plans include English and language arts activities, character building objectives and even ways to help students identify and interrupt injustices. Graves says that last year over 700,000 students in 22 countries accessed the lessons plans and they are hoping to continue to spread Dr. King’s and Mrs. King’s philosophies across the globe.
Celebrate the “day on” in your community
MLK Day is a national day of service; “a day on, not a day off.” Tim Adkins, of Hands On Atlanta, hopes for an uptick of in-person volunteers compared to the last few Covid-affected years.
“This year’s days of service really allows for people to get back and do what they’ve done for years and that is to go on site and actually be able to do something physically with their hands.”
Hands On Atlanta is partnering with the King Center and many others on a number of volunteer community projects, but there will be ways to get involved in almost every major city. AmeriCorps has a searchable database of MLK Day volunteer opportunities available around the country. Simply put in your zip code and click on the “MLK Day” box to find the projects available in your area.
Be a part of history
If you’re looking for something to do from your home, help rewrite history. The Smithsonian Institution and Library of Congress are both looking for volunteers to digitally transcribe historical documents. The projects range from African American history and women’s suffrage to the personal letters and journals of historical figures. The digital transcriptions will help make the documents more widely available to the public and more accessible by people with vision impairments.
Fund those on the front lines
If volunteering is not an option this year, consider donating to organizations working year-round to support the social justice Dr. King dedicated his life to.
The Equal Justice Initiative works to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality. The organization provides legal representation and promotes criminal justice reform. It is also heavily involved in public education about racial injustice in America. In 2018, EJI opened the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. The Museum, which is normally closed on Mondays, will be open to visitors on MLK Day.
The National Urban League has been fighting for African Americans and others for more than 100 years. The organization advances civil rights and economic empowerment by providing education, job training and community development.
“Go do something good”
If time is an issue, much like digitally transcribing historical documents, there are plenty of altruistic apps and websites available that allow anyone to volunteer and help others any time they can. “On-demand volunteering” apps and websites are available to help those with vision impairments, those who need help with language translation or those looking for career or mentoring advice.
Tim Adkins from Hands on Atlanta believes volunteering is a way you can better your community and yourself at the same time.
“I’m a pretty strong believer that volunteering is a potential solution to a lot of mental health issues that have sprawled over the last couple of years,” Adkins said. “I don’t really think it matters what you do as long as you get out there and the intention is, for lack of better phrase, to go do something good.”