Hilliard Bradley’s staff, students discuss the importance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Updated: Jan 26

by Jayla Shanmugam, Editor-in-Chief

The following story was written by a student on the staff of The Jaguar Times as part of Hilliard Bradley High School’s Journalism Production course.

A portrait of the late Dr. King shows his serious and thoughtful demeanor. Photo provided by Unsplash.

Since 1986 Americans have celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. day on the third Monday of January. There is no doubt that Dr. King was one the the most significant, influential, and vital figures in American history. With this day approaching I began to realize that many adolescents do not have a strong enough grasp on why this holiday is so important and what it is for. Through my interviews I verified this theory as many students seemed to have just a basic understanding of King. I interviewed eight students and none of them fully understood why we celebrated the holiday. So, I asked kids about the resources given to them regarding Martin Luther King Jr. and consulted teachers on why we celebrate this holiday and how we can better educate ourselves.

When asked about if she feels she has been provided with enough resources to help her understand MLK day, Frankie DiVincenzo (11) commented, “I don’t think we are provided with enough resources that teach us about Martin Luther King Jr. Maybe just the basics of what he did. It would be nice to dive in a little deeper into what he did for our country.” All students interviewed agreed with this comment. Many kids feel like they do not know anything about the day because it has not been taught to them. Students also seem to believe that their peers are undereducated about Martin Luther King Jr. as well. Reyann Askar (12) stated that, “I definitely don’t know enough about MLK and I don’t think that other kids do either.”

This is an incredibly worrying reality, especially with the world that we are living in today. It is not just crucial that people are educated on The Civil Rights Movement and its activists, but it is a necessity. As citizens we must be knowledgeable about the past, so we can better understand how to make even more change in the future. So, I asked some teachers about Martin Luther King Day and how people can learn more by themselves.

Mr. Cochran stated that, “MLK Day is a day to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr: his achievements and pursuit of racial equality. It's also an important day of national reflection to recognize the ongoing pursuit of racial equality and social justice.” This is a point that is often missed about why we celebrate this holiday. It is a time for everyone as an individual to reflect on racial issues that are still affecting this country today. When asked about what people do on this day off, Mr. Bleh agreed noting, “ I hope that people reflect on the ongoing, tough conversations on race that this country needs to have. I hope that people celebrate that all men (people) are created equal. I hope that people take the time to help others who need it, and reflect on how they can make the world a better place.”

There are countless resources that you can access about Martin Luther King Jr., his vision, and the injustices that the black community still faces today. Mr. Cochran recommended that people, “Simply understand that the struggle for social justice and racial equity is ongoing - it was not solved with the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and continues today across the globe. I recommend educating yourself on any of the ongoing social justice issues happening in your community. The best way to honor King's legacy is through action. A good site for activism is https://www.dosomething.org/us. Getting involved is a great way to honor King's legacy, as well as the legacy of every social justice advocate.” This national holiday is the perfect opportunity to honor King, students are afforded a whole day off for this. Mr. Bleh also suggested to, “Watch the movie'' Selma,”, listen to his “I have a dream” speech, and read “Letters from Birmingham jail.”

Martin Luther King Jr. participating in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Photo provided by Unsplash.
Martin Luther King Jr. participates in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Photo provided by Unsplash.

In essence, Martin Luther King Jr. is a huge reason why our world looks the way it does today, but his work is not complete. There is still racism occurring all over the world, including in this country. As people, but especially as the next generation we must continue to honor Dr. King's legacy by learning more about these injustices and demanding for advancement. MLK Day is an amazing time for education, but these issues are something that we should think about often. So, the Jaguar Times encourages you to spend this Martin Luther King Day as a period of reflection, so we can better advocate for change together.