MLK Day is the first holiday weekend of 2011, and as usual, the BBW must decide how best to honor this occasion. Should I attend some "official" MLK Day parade/scholarship fundraiser/prayer breakfast/benefit concert? Should I spend a few hours "on" engaged in some feel-good service project? Should I watch all three parts of King the Miniseries? Or should I hit the MLK Day sales at the mall?
Too many choices...
I grew up spending MLK Day (which was then commemorated locally on January 15) at the MLK Day parade on MLK Avenue in SE Washington. The kids gathered to watch their friends in the local high school bands, the junior high school drill teams, or the elementary school pom-pom clubs march down the avenue; the adults presumably came to hear a few speeches. Really, everybody just wanted to hear Stevie Wonder perform "Happy Birthday". Back then, MLK Day was a day off from school and/or work to celebrate the life of a great man and his role in an important chapter in our nation's history.
Then it became a federal holiday and suddenly everything affiliated with it became "official" the way Kwanzaa became Black Christmas.
Take the "Official" MLK Day Parade that I participated in as a freshman in college. I was not dressed for the weather*...and the speeches ran long...and because this was Atlanta where King was born, raised and educated...the speeches ran extra long...including six speeches by members of his surviving family...who were all wearing coats...and for some reason I feel like there may have been speeches given by every member of the Atlanta City Council, the Mayor, every black member of the Georgia Legislature, the Governor, both Senators, and even Dr. King's best friends from elementary school...and to reiterate, I was not dressed for the weather (*because as one of the banner carriers for the Marching Band, let's just say that our uniforms were not intended for winter activities). I almost "officially" died from hypothermia.
Alternatively, MLK Day has been declared a national Day of Service so you can opt to spend the day engaged in do-goodery as opposed to sitting around all day in your PJs. After all, "MLK Day is a day on, not a day off!" Whatever...
Not to sound self-righteous, but the whole idea of "day-on" community service activities rubs me the wrong way, as if the needs of a community can be met in a six-hour symbolic gesture. It is a good idea to encourage more people to embrace community service, and if we need to use the excuse of a holiday weekend to make the case, then so be it. But I want to see more people engaged beyond Monday. The BBW does a lot of community service and it would be nice to get a little more help--more folks mentoring young people, assisting our seniors, and caring for the least of these (Matthew 25:40).
At the same time, the BBW understands if folks prefer to just enjoy the three-day weekend. Some of us are still recovering from Christmas and could use an entire day of retail therapy or TV rerun marathons to decompress.
Wait, isn't that why we get New Years Day off? So I take it all back! Find something useful to do on Monday...Sing, Celebrate!