Happy Belated Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
I watched the inauguration on Monday, and I couldn’t help but think how beautiful it was, that our first black president was inaugurated for the second time on the anniversary of one of America’s most prominent social activists, Martin Luther King Jr.
As a brief summation of King’s legacy, King is known for his non-violent approach to promoting civil rights. He also protested against the war in Vietnam. He influenced many other civil rights protests across the world, raising awareness of injustices others had to suffer.
So what can we do to honor King’s legacy? Or rather how can we do him justice?
King considered himself a drum major for justice, and a drum major for peace. We can all be our own drum majors and we can also be the drum majors for others who are not free to make their own decisions.
Even in our supposedly advanced society here in the United States people are discriminated against. Some of the most publicized discrimination is against homosexuals. Women too face serious discrimination in terms of sexual rights. Latinos and African-Americans are still not given full acknowledgment by law.
Around the world and within the US, human sex-trafficking is occurring. There are as many as 27 million slaves in the world. 200,000 are American children.
We have those who suffer from poverty, unfairly neglected by the government and unable to receive minimal housing, food, and education. Those who suffer from ailments not covered under their health benefits.
Injustices are committed not only against people, but against the environment and animals. The United States produces 25% of the carbon emissions in the world. Many of the world’s poor live in the most polluted areas, only contributing more to their lack of well-being. Thousands of animals each year are abused or neglected by their owners, very few who recover successfully.
Our world needs a lot of work. Even with thousands of organizations each with its own set goal and purpose, not every facet of every problem can be addressed. If you are one of the privileged who has a microwave, spending money, food in the refrigerator, access to free education, running water, and a bed of your own, it is YOUR duty to try to improve the world in some way, shape, or form.
Ok, you say, well how can I fulfill my duty?
In truth, this is completely up to you, but in order to get you started I’ve compiled a series of steps for you to follow.
Step #1: Find your passion
It’s nice to say you care about each and every cause on the planet, but committing yourself to all of those is tiring, difficult, and usually ineffective. Search the internet and discover the various types of causes out there. Some of the most common are: poverty, the environment, genocide, special needs, human trafficking, health, and animal and human rights. Each of these causes has many subdivisions based on individualistic aspects of the campaign. Hopefully you’ll find one aspect that really calls your attention, one that relate to you specifically are typically the best to get involved with.
Step #2: Educate yourself
Just because you’ve heard of a cause before or attended a lecture on it does not mean that you know everything pertaining to it. New information and statistics come out every so often, so it’s important to update your knowledge. The FBI has a site with information about civil rights. Organizations that deal with that specific issue typically have a lot of resources on their specific cause. Make sure to double check your organizations to ensure that they are actually doing what they say. A good site is Charity Navigator. Once you have a solid foundation of the cause you’re dealing with, it is that much easier to broadcast your interest to others and to articulate exactly why you want to help fight for this issue.
Step #3: Help out
There are so many ways in which you can help out, especially differing from issue to issue, and organization to organization. Try to find a local organization where you can volunteer either working hands on with the issue or raising awareness about it. If you really feel like it, start your own foundation, but only do so if you have enough resources and feel that you can really dedicate your time to making it thrive. You can always work with multiple organizations, and helping out in bits in pieces as long as you don’t spread yourself too thin. Through volunteer work, you really get to experience the cause you are helping, create change right before your eyes, and feel a lot better about yourself to boot.
Step #4: Money
Unfortunately, money, along with love, is what makes the world go round. If you want to help fight the genocide in Darfur, but don’t feel safe risking your life, or don’t have the means to travel all the way to Africa, donating money to have others do those deeds in your steady is a perfectly acceptable option.
Step #5: Spread the word
Although it’s wonderful to be fighting for this cause, how much better would it be if the fight was ten times stronger? Reach out to your friends, family, religious community, school, or workplace. Post fliers or even make a website. Encourage those around you to learn about the cause, volunteer, or donate money. Getting others involves only improves the impact made on an issue. If your cause is local and can be solved through legislation, start a petition and get your peers to sign it. Maybe one day you’ll see your petition become law. Even if your issue as one you want to fight individually, there is no harm in getting support from the people around you, and goad you on.
Step #6: Feel proud
By taking action, you created change. However big or small that change was, it was a change nonetheless. You are doing something great for the world and for yourself. Acknowledge all your hard work, and keep up the good fight!
I have a dream for a better world; I hope you feel the same way.