On the third Monday of January every year, we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Many of us have grown up learning about his life, and we often associate him with the words, “I have a dream.” He’s recognized as one of the greatest leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Though his famous speech was made over 50 years ago, its sentiments are relevant to this day. Dr. King once said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” As an organization, we’re loud and proud about the things we stand for, and the things we stand against. Whether we’re walking out in support of survivors, speaking out against injustice at the border, or standing in solidarity with women throughout the country, we honor Dr. King’s legacy by refusing to stay silent.
The Man Behind the Movement
King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, and like many states in the 1900s, segregation was widespread. King went to Morehouse College at the young age of fifteen, and went on to study theology and became a pastor, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. King married his wife, Coretta Scott King, in 1953. Coretta was also an advocate for racial equity, as well as for education and women’s rights.
King was part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, which was a prominent organization dedicated to securing rights for African-Americans. King led boycotts, marches, and protests, including the Montgomery bus boycott after Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat, as well as the Selma-Montgomery marches. These actions thrust King into the forefront of the Civil Rights movement, and he soon was a national figure.
One of King’s main philosophies, throughout his career as a leader of the movement, was nonviolence. Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi as well as his religion, his vision of peace and equity for all earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
King was assassinated in 1968–one of many influential Civil Rights leaders taken before their time. When he was alive, his leadership was a factor in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But we are taught about his life and accomplishments in school to this day. As a nation, we have made significant steps towards reaching racial equity, and King played a pivotal role in the narrative. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated not only to honor his life, but also so that we remember to honor his legacy by continuing our work to eliminate racism and empower women.
The Work Continues
From our signature Stand Against Racism campaign to our daily programs that address the byproducts of institutional racism, our work is shaped by King’s vision for a more equitable world. At YWCA Princeton, a more equitable world is one in which working families can rely on dependable, quality child care. Where glass ceilings are shattered and girls are empowered to pursue their passions in STEM and engineering. Where women can get to and from life-saving treatment regardless of financial barriers. We will get up and do the work until injustice is rooted out, until institutions are transformed, until the world sees women, girls, and people of color the way we do: equal. Powerful. Unstoppable.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s greatest message was that of hope–hope for a better tomorrow, and a brighter future. It was that hope that kept people of color fighting back then for the right to be treated equally, and it is that very same hope that fuels the work we do each day.