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MLK Day and the “King Thing”

MLK Day and the “King Thing”

For as long as I can recall, I have worked for companies that did not give Martin Luther King Day off. So, I have had to get creative. You see, I believed that one of the things that MLK fought for was for integration of work places. The precursor to Affirmative Action – Equal Opportunity was part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, specifically Title VII, requiring private business to hire minorities. So, I owed my job to MLK, and I was not going to take the day off if it was not given to me. Instead, I would help my coworkers celebrate the day with an event at my place of work. Sometimes it was as simple as playing the I Have a Dream speech at work during lunch. Sometimes it was a gathering with a minister giving a sermon. But it was something AND, it was meant to be inclusive. That was something I really wanted. For MLK Day to be inclusive, to be a day in which everyone celebrated his life.

But I wanted something more – and I invented “The King Thing”. It was always held the Sunday before the holiday. For everyone who didn’t have the day off. To listen to TWO of his speeches, get to know him a bit more deeply, and talk about integration. One year, I played a speech he gave about the importance of voting. Another year, I played a sermon about being well-rounded, with self, community and God. One year I played a speech that he gave to a white group in California. A few weeks before the event, I would pull out a CD compilation of about 10-20 of his speeches and find one that I thought would fit the year and the times. I also cooked for the entire event – Mexican Lasagna and Spinach Quiche. Really the only two things I make well. I worked to make sure that it was an integrated event. I invited everyone I knew of all races, creeds, genders and orientations. And we would listen together.

And then I moved. In 1998 or so, I left Massachusetts, and went to North Carolina, where I struggled to make friends, and didn’t have a King Thing. Thinking back, I think I could have. But North Carolina is not Massachusetts. Shortly after that, I married and moved to Maryland. And as I made more friends, I decided to start the King Thing again. It was VERY hard to make it an integrated event. For some reason, I did not make white friends. But I worked at it. And every King Thing has been “integrated”, if at least by one person.

In 2021, the King Thing was virtual. This had benefits – I had friends from around the country and I could invite them. My sister joined in from Florida. It was a small gathering. One friend said that it wasn’t the same without the food!

But then I got a new job. And the King Thing came to an end. I simply couldn’t guarantee that I would be home. Not last year, not this year. Last year, I made a PowerPoint collage of his life. With quotes and history and images. Anyone who would like a copy feel free to message me and I will send it to you. Once again, I am working on MLK Day. And once again, I thank MLK for making it possible for me to be a valued employee.

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