According to an annual survey by Bloomberg Law, only 45 percent of private employers closed their doors for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2019. This is an increase over years prior—a decade before, this number was less than 30 percent. It’s clear that American values are shifting. You might consider the relationship between Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and your business’ values when reviewing your list of corporate holidays.
Dr. King’s Legacy
Dr. King’s role in our country’s history as an activist, minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner is unmistakable. His leadership during events like the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Sanitation Workers’ Strike and March on Washington accelerated the movement toward racial justice around the country. His famous “I Have a Dream” speech and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” set the tone for future activists like Stacey Abrams, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Deray McKesson. In classrooms across the country, students memorize his words as a call for equity and inclusion in today’s world.
April 4, 1968 marked a shift in the long-fought battle for civil rights when Dr. King was assassinated on the balcony of his hotel in Memphis, Tenn. In the days and weeks that followed, riots broke out across the country in protest of his murder. John Conyers Jr., the late Democratic Congressman from Michigan, took to the floor of Congress just four days after Dr. King’s death to insist on a federal holiday in his honor. It would take another 32 years for every state to recognize the third Monday in January as a day of remembrance for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Observing Martin Luther King Jr. Day
As we have witnessed in the past year, there is an ongoing racial reckoning in our country. We have seen firsthand the inequalities that continue to plague our nation and the growing sense of frustration among people of all races. The team at TechnologyAdvice acknowledges those concerns and stands in solidarity with those working for change. Over the last several months, we have reflected on the ways we can further support our coworkers, neighbors and the Black community at large.
Dr. King once said that the time is always right to do what is right, and his day serves as a reminder of that. In this spirit, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee at TechnologyAdvice worked with the executive team to add Martin Luther King Jr. Day to the list of company holidays. “The gesture itself is a small one, but represents something much more important, which is our commitment to continuing the conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion,” says CEO Rob Bellenfant. “Candidly, we are not where we want to be from a diversity perspective, but we are dedicated to the work of bringing awareness, education and understanding to each and every employee at TA in the hopes that it will always be a place where people from all walks of life feel valued.”
A Day On, Not a Day Off
It’s true that lasting change does not happen overnight. It’s also true that these issues are not new, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is evidence of that. If the past months—and decades—have shown us anything, it’s that words are not enough. As we continue to work toward Dr. King’s dream of racial equity, Martin Luther King Jr. Day seems like the perfect opportunity to consider his quote: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
At TechnologyAdvice, we are focusing on the work we can do individually and company-wide so that we have a lasting impact on our communities. In some cases, this looks like volunteering with local organizations. In others, this looks like educating ourselves on Black history and the challenges that persist in the Black community today. In general, we’re using Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an opportunity to do the work to be better, so we can all stand together in the fight for justice.
Our support for the social justice movements must continue even when it’s not lucrative, convenient or attention-worthy. As Dr. King said, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” It may be a small step, but we can do it together.
Kaiti Norton is a Nashville, Tenn.-based content writer for TechnologyAdvice, a full-service B2B media company. She is passionate about helping brands build genuine connections with their customers through relatable, research-based content.
Amiee Sadler is the education and research manager at people3, Inc. People3, Inc. is a diversity and inclusion firm located in Nashville, Tenn. They provide education, consulting and research services for organizations to expand their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.