News·3 min read

Daily Skimm: MLK Day

MLK, Jr. at the Washington Mall
January 16, 2023

Honoring a Legacy

The Story

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Tell me more.

The federal holiday, observed on the third Monday in January, is a time to reflect on the civil rights leader’s legacy of equality and social justice. And something you might not know: MLK Day’s the only federal holiday designated by Congress as a national day of service. Aka, when Americans are encouraged to make a positive impact on their communities. Here are some ideas for doing just that, whether you plan to celebrate today or all year long.

If you’ve got time…A little goes a long way. In under an hour, you could assist people who have visual impairments with everyday tasks (think: reading a product label or picking out clothes) through the Be My Eyes app. Or you could write thoughtful letters to residents of assisted living facilities and care homes via Letters Against Isolation. If you have a bit more time, consider organizing an equity challenge for your company or team, preparing and serving meals at your local soup kitchen, pitching in at one of the country’s national parks or monuments, or helping kids and teens with schoolwork and college readiness workshops via Girls Inc. For more volunteer opportunities in your area, search here.

If you’ve got money to donate…Think about what matters most to you. That could mean contributing directly to The King Center, founded by MLK’s family to continue his legacy. Or if you’re passionate about education, help a local classroom through DonorsChoose. To support LGBTQIA+ youth, you might want to donate to The Trevor Project. If you love the outdoors, consider the Sierra Club. Whatever you decide, first make sure a charity is legit. Check sites like GuideStarCharity NavigatorCharityWatch, or BBB Wise Giving Alliance — all of which compile information about charities’ transparency and spending habits. (Ideally, a charity should spend at least 75% of its budget on programs or initiatives, according to Charity Navigator.)

If you’ve got skills…Don’t be shy. If you’re crafty, put your knitting, quilting, or sewing hands to work making blankets for children’s hospitals, shelters, and service agencies through Project Linus. If you’re an avid runner, consider helping girls or disabled children and adults step up their own running game thanks to Girls on the Run and Achilles International, respectively. If you’re multilingual, help break (language) barriers through Translators without Borders.


Even small gestures can make a big difference. Whatever you choose, consider recruiting some friends and family. It can bring us one step closer to MLK’s “beloved community.”  

Read, Watch, Listen

Looking for recs to check out on MLK Day? Dive into these books, pods, and docs about his mission and legacy. 

  • Strength to Love” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr….a collection of sermons that he wrote during the civil rights movement — which contain many of his core beliefs, like using love as a means for change. 

  • The Youngest Marcher” by Cynthia Levinson…a children’s book about Audrey Faye Hendricks, the youngest known child to be arrested for protesting segregation in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. 

  • I Am MLK Jr”…a feature-length documentary that highlights major moments from the civil rights movement, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington.

  • The Civil Rights History Project…a collection of interviews with people who experienced the civil rights movement firsthand — part of an initiative by Congress to create an oral history of the era.  

  • Eyes on the Prize”…a comprehensive, award-winning docuseries about the events and people that helped end the country’s long history of discrimination and segregation.

  • The Sum of Us” by Heather McGhee…in a deeply researched book, the economist delves into the ways that racism and racist policies leave everyone worse off.

  • It Starts With Me” by Bernice King…a children’s book by MLK’s daughter that encourages words, actions, and thoughts driven by love. 

  • King: A Filmed Record...Montgomery to Memphis”…an Oscar-nominated documentary that chronicles many defining moments of MLK’s career, including footage of key speeches.

  • King in the Wilderness”…a documentary about the last years of MLK’s life, featuring personal stories from people who were by his side.

  • The Forgotten Mothers of Civil Rights History”…a TED Radio Hour episode about the mothers of MLK Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. And the influence they had on the future civil rights activists. 

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