By Sabia Prescott, EI blogger
This month, we celebrate a cultural icon and civil rights hero. Martin Luther King, Jr. was most known for his great strides and fearless determination in fighting for civil rights issues, and is now considered one of the foremost activist leaders in U.S. history.
King was a champion of service, advocating for and leading nonviolent protests in successful campaigns against racial discrimination under federal and state law. A Baptist minister and Georgia native, King saw an obvious injustice towards African American citizens where it was most prevalent. In October 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Soon after, riots broke out in cities across the country as many mourned the greatest civil rights leader in U.S. history. In 1983, President Reagan signed Martin Luther King, Jr. Day into law as a national holiday, to be held the third Monday each January, falling around King’s birthday, which was January 15. It was officially observed in all 50 U.S. states in 2000.
Today, MLK Day is widely celebrated not only in remembrance of a hero, but in commemoration of his will for public service. The Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service is the largest event of its kind in the nation, and gathers thousands of people annually to organize service projects in honor of MLK. Organizations and individuals can organize projects collecting goods for those in need, advocating for a cause, performing community service, etc.
Last year’s Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service saw a record number of volunteers serving Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware through 1,800 community projects. Groups and volunteers helped repair underprivileged schools, painted murals in honor of King, advocated for racial, national, and LGBT equality, and rallied in support for hot-button political issues.