Not Just Another Day Off {Op-Ed}

From Left to Right – Ralph Abernathy, James Forman, MLK, Reverend Jesse Douglas, and U.S. Rep John Lewis – March, 1965; Picture Source


Here’s a playlist that I made to accompany this piece, comprised of successful Black musicians from the past, of the present, and for the future. Appearences are made by The Roots, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, The Isley Brothers, Peter Tosh, and many others. This playlist of 50 can been found below.

I kindly ask that you also check out my piece below where I dive into why Martin Luther King Day has a growing importance for me, living in the United States as a Black man in 2017, as I mature with each passing year. Thank you.

The genuine intention behind creating days of observation is to spread awareness and to draw attention to historical events, topics, and figures. It could be as local as “Founder’s Day” in one’s quaint and antiquated town, as wide-spread as “Boxing Day” for prideful countries or as universally recognized across the globe as “World A.I.D.S. Day.” To some, these days of celebration and remembrance are an important day of reflection due to their own personal ties to the subject matter at hand. A person who has had family members that were of Service to any branch of the U.S. Military have a strong, emotional investment with Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Others who may not share the same family tree of Service still have an immense amount of respect and appreciation for not only the day, but for those who put their lives on the line to defend the Country.

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Above the growing list of “Holidays” that are diluting the true meaning of a day of observation (National Pancake Day, National Lighthouse Day, National Ampersand Day, etc.) are the main staples in the tradition of the United States. In addition to Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving, along with religious Holidays such as Easter, Christmas, and Hannukah are held in the highest of regard by the majority of Americans. The deeper meaning behind some Holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, for example, have become misconstrued. A day to commemorate a religious Irish heritage has become a drunken afterthought of an excuse to get inebriated beyond comprehension.

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Growing up as an African-American male in the suburbs of the Northeastern part of the United States was, for the most part, a typical experience. While I had many friends from a plethora of different ethnic backgrounds, a majority of my friends were and still are White. At times during the early formative stages of my adolescent life, I found it difficult to find my voice and identity. It wasn’t like I was forced to assimilate to the point where I lost my true sense of culture, but it was evident that I dwelled within a suburban bubble. My fairer-skinned friends and their parents never pushed an agenda for me to act more like them; they were always welcoming and accepting of me and my interests. But looking back in retrospect, I missed out on opportunities to further enrich my knowledge about my culture.

A line from Earl Sweatshirt‘s deeply introspective and somber track “Chum” (listen above) has resonated with me because of how much it related to my life situation:

Too Black for the White kids, but too White for the Blacks.

While most of my classmates in the 5th grade were geeked up about the brand new Blink-182 CD, I barely knew anyone that shared the same enthusiasm about the latest G-Unit CD.  As I got older, when my music tastes diversified, I experienced the same difficulty sharing my thoughts about the electro-rock duo Ratatat. Quickly dismissed as “wack” by my Black churchmates, I experienced the same feeling I felt several years prior: slightly out of place while being completely present.

To myself, my M.O. was always to be an insider looking out, beyond the scope of my own background. Inversely, however, in most social settings, I typically felt like an outsider looking in. I’m grateful for having experienced both sides of the draw because of the well-rounded perspective that I’ve gained as a result of being emersed in both cultures. However, what I have come to learn in my 24th year of life is that fully embracing who you are and where you come from a standpoint of heritage is equally, if not more important than being partially familiar with both sides of the pitch.

From Kindergarten to College, Martin Luther King Day was, of course, important, but selfishly, deep down, it was just another day off of school more than it was a day of reflection for the historical magnitude of his work.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, in the soulless, apathetic heart of the Jim Crow South. During an extremely turbulent time in the trenches of a landscape that was in favor of overt discrimination, simply existing a person of color had severe consequences and restrictions. Less than a century removed from legal slavery at the time, many debilitating limitations were placed upon Black people during the period of Segregation. Not only did African-Americans in the deep South have to worry about how their families and communities would stay afloat against the ardent current of discriminatory laws, the threat of actual violence was a deterrent to keep the disenfranchised “in their place.”


For the most nominal of offenses and many times for no reason at all, random acts of terror carried out by constituents of the Ku Klux Klan were commonplace in an ecosystem that devalued the life of Black people. The most notable event that drew National attention was the lynching of one 14-year-old boy named Emmitt Till who was brutally beaten for innocuously flirting with a White man’s wife. Was this a rude and foolish thing to do, regardless of the circumstance and context? Absolutely. Did it constitute and justify the harrowing events that transpired? Absolutely not. The most sickening detail of the entire story is the fact that the killers were acquitted of charges less than a month after Till’s death. 5 months later, protected by Double Jeopardy, the assailants shamelessly admitted to what they did to that poor boy.

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Domestic acts terrorism such as this and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church were essentially shrugged off (the first member of this planned attack, which killed one 11-year-old girl and three 14-year-old girls did not get convicted and sentenced until 14 years later). While the repercussions for being a vocal man of color were grave, the fortitude of Dr. King’s ambitions were much mightier.

Reverend King was an integral cog in the machine of the Civil Rights Movement during the 50s and 60s. A peaceful and conservative activist with the verbal fervor of his voiceless ancestors before him, Martin Luther King Jr. was, in large part, responsible for organizing some of the most important protests during that era. The Mongomery Bus Boycott, Selma, and what has become widely regarded as his most influential contribution in the Civil Rights Era: The Great March on Washington. An event in which 300,000 people heard Dr. King’s impassioned call for the end of prejudice and injustice against all minorities to form as 17-minute presentation more commonly referred to as the “I Have A Dream” speech.


I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. 

The culmination of Martin Luther King Jr.’s previous efforts took place in the subsequent years that followed The Great March on Washington on that historic August day in 1963. On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The following Summer, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 took effect. The passing of these monumental laws gave Dr. King and other prominent leaders in the Civil Rights Movement a strong belief that things will be different for the next generation of all types of people who face discrimination in the United States. Their ardent struggles en-route to the apex of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s were not in vein.

Things are far from perfect almost 50 years after the assassination of Dr. King in 1968. Although, major strides have been taken in the name of equality for people of all colors, creeds, and sexual orientations.  The culture surrounding entertainment – in film, music, and sports to name a few – has helped to further the advancement of creating a general sense of unity for all. The sacrifices made and risks by people such as Jackie Robinson, Ruby Dee, Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, and Ella Fitzgerald were just as important to the Civil Rights Movement as those who were considered just “activists.”

Their contributions to the Movement paved the way and made it possible for those such as DeRay & Netta, LeBron James, Beyonce, Donald Glover, and Ta-Nehisi Coates to voice their opinions while we try to make sense of the current Civil Rights Movement that is currently taking place. While lynchings and other overt acts of domestic violence in the name of racism are not as egregious as they once were during the Jim Crow era, swathes of African-Americans are being harmed and killed by police at an alarmingly high rate. To quote pre-Blonde Kanye West from 2004:

Racism’s still alive, they just be concealing it.

2016 was the most harrowing, eye-opening year of my adult life. I’ve always known that racism and prejudice still existed; I went to college in the middle of Pennsylvania, of course I experienced subtle and not so subtle discrimination during my 4 years. But my God, the results of election cycle of 2016 really brought to the forefront animosity that has been stewing for potentially 8 years that is equally as shocking as it is disgusting.

I really have no idea what to expect from the next 4 years but I now have a strong sense of identity. I am a proud Black man who is first generation descendent of two hardworking African Immigrants that does not give a flying f*** about what gender or race you are, if you’re gay or straight, or what political affiliation you are. As long as you’re a tolerable and decent human being, you’re alright in my book.

I have a strong sense of who I am as a young man, and I have a clearer picture of who I hope to become in the future. I solemnly swear to never take the sacrifices made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for granted ever, again. Without his contributions to American society, we all would undoubtedly be worse off as a Nation.

A message to my younger self: it’s not just another day off from school or work, it’s a f***ing day of remembrance that should be held in the highest of regards.

Martin Luther King Jr. was Black Excellence personified.

Let’s take this day, collectively as a Nation, to reflect on ways to make him proud and carry on his legacy.


Check out my previous work for EVRYDY, below:

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