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It is amazing that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday that has lasted with festivities for over 25 years. The celebration includes marches, banquets and speeches.

However, can we, as a nation, continue with the traditional way of celebrating Dr. King while at the same time adding new dimensions to the celebration? This article is not intended to degrade the way the celebration is currently done. Cities are to be applauded for their efforts to make it a grand day of celebration. However, the time has come to make real his principles, concept, and beliefs by practicing and living by them — not just for one day, but for 365 days a year.

Recently, articles have been circulated in newspapers, text messages and on Facebook about cities that have been identified as the “Worst Cities for Black Americans.” Identifiers are used to assess how a city gets such a rating. Some of the identifiers are related to comparative data based on median income and unemployment by race.

What would Dr. King think about such a label? His “I Have a Dream" speech serves as one of the many indicators of his teaching. He espoused, “We have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”

OUR VIEW: Legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King continues

The March of 1963 dramatized the conditions relative to the lack of a response to the promissory note guaranteed in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence for all Americans. Dr. King proclaimed, “We (black Americans) have come to cash in a check that will demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” In his speech he acknowledged, “One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

Every day in 2019, it is imperative for the current “shameful conditions” to be addressed. For example, African Americans are subject to a higher rate of incarcerations than whites, living in low-income housing, lacking in higher education and high in unemployment. According to an article in USA Today, the median annual income among black households in the United States is just $36,651, about $24,000 shy of the median income among white households.

Thus, as a nation, can we add new dimensions to celebrating MLK Day? We must do the work for 365 days. The time has come to celebrate the work and efforts that have been performed in real life and real time. We must emulate the teachings and work of Dr. King through our work and commitment to keeping America and our cities great for all Americans, not just for one week but for 52 weeks a year.

We must demand our children and grandchildren get the best education possible. Dr. King taught us the value of education. “It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.”

Dr. King taught us the ways of non-violence. Throughout the year during peaceful and non-peaceful times, we must encourage negotiations instead of bullets; we must teach sitting at the table to air differences instead of using magnums.

Can we add new dimensions in celebrating Dr. King’s birthday?

It’s time to cash the check and heed his words; “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

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Jeanelle Norman is the branch president of the Decatur NAACP.

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