Why we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Sandra Charles

We all enjoy the reprieve a holiday weekend provides; it is especially welcome in this first, and longest, month of the year. MLK Day is Monday, and I intend to enjoy the day off from work, but I will also contemplate the legacy of the man for whom this day is dedicated and consider how his efforts laid the foundation for the very work we put our hands to each day.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister who championed using non-violent methods of protest to end racial segregation in the 1960s. He first gained national attention in 1955 by leading a bus boycott by African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama, and went on to become the most influential African American civil rights leader of his time. He was instrumental in the passage of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. His efforts were recognized globally, and he received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964. Tragically, he was assassinated in 1968.

My life and Dr. King’s life had a short overlap of only a few years, yet I am in awe of all he accomplished in the face of incredible hurdles and fierce opposition. I was fortunate enough to meet his son, Martin Luther King III, when I helped organize a community luncheon in 2008 and have spent many hours reflecting on the influence of Dr. King’s actions. He spoke with a belief in equality and a positive vision for this country that resonates as powerfully now as it did when it was first spoken.

I believe the work we are doing to foster inclusion, equity and diversity at Fermilab continues the work Dr. King and others began. We know the work isn’t easy – little that is worthwhile ever is. Martin Luther King Jr. stood up for what he believed in and did all that he could to make the world better. On this MLK Day, let’s honor his legacy and continue to make our corner of the world at Fermilab a better place for all too.

Sandra Charles is Fermilab chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer.