Recently, the King Family called for 'no celebration' of MLK Day without action on voting rights legislation. To honor that, we have the responsibility to think about what this call to action means and why the family has issued it.
This month at The Woke Coach, we have been celebrating Dr. King’s life and issuing calls to action every day on social media. We are calling it #31DaysOfDrKing.
I want you to know that the items related to Dr. King featured on our pages came out of my head, and I know them by heart. Not from an extensive Google search. These are moments in history and anecdotes that I grew up learning and knowing. Each story and detail is deeply seeded in my bones. These are things that I had to know, not things that were only important to me or relevant on the third Monday in January. Dr. King’s life and legacy are a part of my origin story and have shaped my everyday existence—which is why I do the work of racial equity, inclusion, and antiracism.
The conversations about voting rights, access, and legislation are not new. These are the same conversations we’ve been having in this country since Reconstruction. This is the same fight against injustice to which John Lewis and Ella Baker dedicated their lives. The injustices they were calling out, protesting, and seeking to right still linger today.
I don’t think about the Dr. King’s, the Fannie Lou Hamer‘s, and the Bayard Rustin’s of the world as people we celebrate on one day or even simply one month out of the year. These are the folks who have informed my everyday existence and our collective existence. These folks blazed the path and made it possible for me, and other folks who share my skin experience, to have a company and be a successful entrepreneur. (It is also not lost on me that it is because of inequity that my company even exists in the first place.)
In my company, we move our clients from ally to accomplice. We do the work of creating more equitable and inclusive environments and circumstances every day. We help people transform their businesses, organizations, and lives. And the one thing that we tell aspiring accomplices is that you have to move to action and opt in every single day. No excuses. If you only celebrate Dr. King on a single day each year, if you use his words as weapons against communities of color, or occasionally quote his speeches to suggest your allegiance but take no action, then you are a part of the problem.
Of course, we all need to understand, engage with, and celebrate (when appropriate) the history that made the MLK holiday–and other dates of note related to justice–necessary. But understanding, engaging, and celebrating should happen. Every. Single. Day. And it should not be passive. It must be active.
We must all participate in progress. It won’t happen simply because time passes. Progress is a byproduct of direct action. And our actions can be small, continuous acts over time.
If you have not decided to actively use your power and privilege for the benefit of others, I can’t imagine what you’re waiting for. As Dr. King famously said, “The time is always right to do right.” It’s time.
Here’s how you can do right: Get involved with passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and Freedom to Vote Act.
Founder + CEO
The Woke Coach