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Celebrating Black History Month by Honoring Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, I remember the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.  A man of faith and action, Dr. King saw a world of possibilities and invited us to bring them into reality by taking concrete action.

As I listen to the broadcast of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, tears roll down my face. I cry for many reasons, mainly because he dared to dream. Dr. King acknowledged the world as it was and saw the world as it could be. He invited people of all races and backgrounds to make his dream of racial equality and social justice their own.

As a descendant of slaves, a granddaughter of mixed race grandparents, a daughter of African America parents, a sister to African American siblings, a wife of a Caucasian man, a sister-in-law to Chinese, Latina, and Caucasian women and a gay man, a daughter-in-law of a Japanese woman and a Caucasian woman, an aunt and a great-aunt to numerous black, white and mixed-race children and adults – all of whom I love and cherish – I am truly grateful for Dr. King’s vision of the world and to those who helped actualize it.

I am also proud to work for an organization that puts its faith into action every day and chooses to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy by making Dr. King’s birthday one of Volunteers of America’s nine official holidays. By honoring Dr. King, we also honor the many, many others who fought and died for civil rights. And, that we choose to honor their legacy in our actions and deeds.

There are no small actions. All actions matter. I remember Maud Booth’s words which continue to resonate for so many, “Keep the faith – the simple faith, dear and childlike, that has always been the strength and power of our work.”

I’ve been told that before children learn to fear, they live in a world of possibilities. “I can” and “I want” are very powerful declarations made without fear and with full certainty that what they seek they will acquire. Perhaps that determination and fearlessness is what Maud speaks of in her quote. Dr. King stepped out in faith, with determination and without fear even though the severe reality of indignities, brutality and murders suffered by activists and citizens of all colors did not align with his vision. And, maybe that is why the National Office chooses to honor his legacy and the people of various races, ethnicities, backgrounds and lifestyles who united in service to make the world a better place.

Many of us receive a calling to act, but do we? At Volunteers of America, we operate in service to others. Dr. King was a theologian and an activist. He took action and in so doing put himself and his family, as well as those that supported him, in grave danger. Yet, he and they persevered. Dr. King and others gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to creating a better world – for which I am eternally grateful. I owe them a debt that is impossible to pay back. The tomorrow that they envisioned has only partially materialized and the fight for social justice continues.

To find out more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, please visit The King Center.

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About the Author: Rhonda Mower is Vice President of Culture, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Volunteers of America’s National Office. In her role, she works with leaders at all levels of the organization to build servant leadership, community and connection – internally and externally – in order to encourage innovation, best practice sharing and continuous learning.