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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s mission for equity and equality for all oppressed groups continues to inspire the global community generations later. We are inspired by his life and work to demand justice and promote tolerance across the world, especially on the national holiday that commemorates his legacy. MLK Day was made an official federal holiday in 1983 with national observance becoming the standard three years later.

MLK Day is more than an honorific holiday, but a call to action for everyone, as we’ve all benefited from the civil rights leader’s  activism and learned from his ideologies. We must take up his teachings to aspire future leaders and activists to use their platforms towards a power greater than themselves. Through steps big and small but together, we can enact change in honor of the man whose life was dedicated to racial equity and justice. Dr. King’s dream still has yet to be wholly fulfilled, but those who believe in that same idea of freedom can continue the work to accomplish these lofty goals. Through avenues such as education reform, women’s health advocacy and upliftment of marginalized peoples, here are ways and organizations that keep Dr. King’s dream alive: 


Support Black Students Through  the United Negro College Fund 

The United Negro College Fund has numerous ways in which to help support Black students attending HBCUs. Through donation or volunteer work, one can directly change the trajectory of an HBCU student’s life by adding to scholarships, so that financial burden does not hinder their chance to receive an education. In addition, the UNCF advocates for better funding for HBCUs so that they have access to greater resources to better the experience of their campus. 


Hygiene Kits for the Houseless

Towards the end of his life, Dr. King expanded his activism to better the conditions and treatment of those less fortunate through the Poor People’s Campaign. A way to directly work in that capacity is through creating hygiene kits for the houseless individuals in your community. Contacting local shelters on what their residents need most, especially in the winter, to make kits is a way to get your entire family involved to pay homage to his work for the poor. 


Donate to Local Organizations Dedicated to Racial Justice 

Grassroots Chapters of Black Lives Matter work to ensure local leadership is constantly improving the treatment and livelihoods of its Black residents, especially in regards to law enforcement. Becoming members, attending meetings and joining along protests are ways in which to engage with fellow local activists to ensure your hometowns are safe spaces for Black lives. 


Support Refugees and Resettlement Agencies

The International Rescue Committee is a global nonprofit that aids in the relocation and transition for refugees to new regions. They have local centers across the U.S., with multiple ways to support and get involved. Through donation of clothes and toys for families, providing sponsorship for a household as they establish themselves in the U.S., or monetary commitment, there is always more help needed and work to be done to help refugees feel safe and supported as they embark on their journey. 


Support Pro-Choice Women’s Health Centers

Dr. King was a pioneer for the rights of the oppressed, and women’s rights are still at risk as they were back in his era. Especially as abortion rights are being taken away with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, protecting the establishments we have currently that still provide access is more crucial than ever. If you champion women’s rights to their own bodies, consider donating to agencies that protect this right to choose. 


Fight Against Mass Incarceration

The New Jim Crow, as Michelle Alexander explains it, is found within our criminal justice system, where Black and Brown people are systematically indoctrinated into the prison pipeline. If Dr.King was alive today, there is no doubt that he would be a fierce fighter against mass incarceration and work to dismantle the system that entraps minorities into unjust convictions. The Equal Justice Initiative is dedicated to this very cause, and taking the time to learn and create alternatives to traditional incarceration is aligned with Dr.King’s radical ideology. Other organizations, such as The Innocence Project, help to abolish the death penalty and get innocent people off of death row, a conviction that is primarily given to Black men. 


Pay Homage at the King Center and Civil Rights Museums

Learning from our history is crucial to not repeating it. Supporting historians and promoting truth by visiting these learning centers helps develop future minds that are aware of our downfalls yet determined to make long-lasting change. Cities nationwide have museums dedicated to showing the plight of those who protested in the civil rights movement, while also showcasing the rich history and culture of Black America. Whether it be The King Center in Atlanta, or the NMAAHC in Washington, D.C., learning of Black life and empowerment is a way to honor Dr. King. 


Find Your Passion and Pay it Forward 

The aforementioned ways to give back to your communities are connected to Dr King’s specific activism. However, there is always more work to be done on the social issues you are most passionate about. If your priority for activism lies in mental health advocacy, especially for LGBTQIA+ youth, the Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) has information on how to get involved with crisis prevention. Or, if immigration reform is a passion, one can also connect with United We Dream, a youth-centered network that promotes the respect and aid for immigrant communities in the U.S. 

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