Martin Luther King Jr Day

Author: one tough job

Welcome back and happy new year from all of us at One Tough Job. We hope you and your family stayed safe, physically distant, and socially close through the passing of the new year.

Here are some suggestions on how to spend this extra day off (three-day weekend, anyone?). Even if you’re still working on Monday, January 18th, any adult in your child’s life who’s supervising them can help integrate these ideas for the day.


Engage in acts of service

For many communities, MLK Day has become a day for acts of community service. Here at One Tough Job we’ve taken this approach before, so go ahead and check out 15 Acts of Service for Kids. You’ll notice that many of the suggestions are social-distancing-friendly, such as:

  • Writing letters
  • Donating gently used clothing
  • Beach/park clean-up
  • Donate to a food bank

This is also a great chance to discuss with your children “what does helping others mean to you?” and be curious about their responses. Encourage them to think about the difference between helping a person or community based on what we think they need versus helping out a person or community based on what they have said they need. For older children, talk to them about autonomy, and for younger children, talk conceptually about someone asking them how they feel and what they want – do they feel good? Happy? Listened to? How does it feel when someone does not listen to what they want?

Talk about MLK Jr’s life and work.

Often when talking about Martin Luther King Jr, the stories stop at his I Have A Dream speech and the March on Washington. However, Dr. King spent a lifetime fighting for civil rights and justice, and his advocacy touched on many areas.

If your child has already learned about the resistance Martin Luther King Jr faced, this is a great entry point to talking about standing up for what’s right. What does it feel like to stand up to injustice, even if it means facing resistance or being unpopular? Ask your child what helps them feel empowered to stand up to injustice and anti-Blackness.

MLK wasn’t just an advocate for the rights of Black Americans in racial justice: he also stood in picket lines for workers’ rights and protested against the American War in Viet-Nam. Older children can read this Smithsonian article about how much resistance MLK faced in both areas. Talk to your child about how fighting multiple kinds of injustice is necessary. This can be an exercise in perspective: when we stand up to one injustice, what other fights are linked? How can we link together our struggles in better solidarity? Is there anyone we’re accidentally leaving out, and if so, can we include them?

Discuss Martin Luther King’s contemporaries

Many of us learned about Martin Luther King Jr within the United States context, with little connection to other events. But we can help our children understand what else was going on in the United States and the world during MLK’s lifetime. Do you and your child recognize these figures who were alive at the same time as MLK?

  • Anne Frank: most famous for the Diary of Anne Frank that she wrote while with her family hiding from the Nazis, Anne Frank was born the same year as Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Queen Elizabeth II: the still-living Queen was born only three years before Dr. King. She was crowned as Queen only a few years before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her bus seat in 1955.
  • Ho Chi Minh: a leader of the Viet Minh against French occupation in Viet-Nam and then a leader in the resistance to US intervention during the Vietnam War, Ho Chi Minh died only one year after MLK was assassinated.
  • James Baldwin: a prolific author and speaker, Mr. Baldwin was born a few years before Martin Luther King Jr and participated in several of the same marches and actions.
  • Maya Angelou: a storied writer and poet, Ms. Angelou is well known for expanding the autobiography genre and for lyrical examples of Black culture and pride.
  • Malcolm X: likewise assassinated at a relatively young age, Malcolm X brought a vision of Black independence, economic power, and racial pride along with a call to Islam. His contributions were an important inspiration to the later emergence of the Black Panther Party.

Stay safe, stay warm, and happy Martin Luther King Jr Day!

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