The 2023 theme for MLK Day was “Together, We Can Be THE Dream” and I wholeheartedly agree and want all of us to feel empowered to do the same, so here are some ideas to consider that not only embody the American dream but also honor the powerful words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s message.

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.” -1963

RELATED READING :: White Parents, Talk to Your Kids About Race on Martin Luther King Day (And Every Day)

Since 1986, the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr has been observed in the U.S. but it took another 17 years until it was truly recognized in all 50 states, even after all the good work he had done, there was still resistance to the idea that it was worth a high level of acknowledgement. The realization of this struggle to reconcile even beyond legislation further emphasizes that the pursuit of THIS dream is not like the ones many of us sat down weeks ago to pencil into our planners or glue onto our vision boards. This is not something we can individually pour our blood, sweat and tears into with the assurance that WE have the sole power to bring it to fruition. That truth can be simply discouraging. We live in a culture where we rely on the analysis, the reasoning and the measure of success BEFORE we make a decision, many times before we even take a stance. We use what we already know (based on bias and personal experience) to determine what is worthy of our time and our attention. Don’t get me wrong, this has benefited us and the American economy greatly but it can be a detriment, and I believe it has been- to our humanity. Our ability to not only use logic but to know when to factor in compassion, sympathy and generosity as we interact with others. The hope of building beyond the lives that we with the people we love, to make an impact far beyond the days we will live for those we don’t know. Peace, Unity, Equality, It’s not a new dream- but it’s a big dream. I’m first to admit as a creative marketing professional, a wife and mother of four and a plethora of other roles my passion leads me towards, I feel like sometimes it’s these big concepts that can be overwhelming, intimidating, resource-consuming (in every sense) but I also know that these are often the most rewarding, fulfilling and overall impactful. The 2023 theme for MLK Day was “Together, We Can Be THE Dream” and I wholeheartedly agree and want all of us to feel empowered to do the same, so here are some ideas to consider that not only embody the American dream but also honor the powerful words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s message.

BE the Heart, BE the Hand.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”-1957

We all know how easy it can be to get caught up in our lives, with our own people and our own passions. As mothers it seems from the very moment we are made aware that we will be moms, the sacrifice begins. We physically, emotionally and financially will deplete every resource that we have, lean into roles we’ve never held, strive harder than we ever thought we could- even if it seemed we were already at our limits, with the singular mindset being, to improve the quality of life for someone else. We have already proven that we have everything that we need to help someone else so now it’s up to us to do it. There is no shortage of ways to serve in your local community, you can use online resources like Just Serve, get connected to the Austin branch of American Red Cross or even just do a Google search to find local projects for you and your family to sign up to volunteer together. I love that MLK Day is the only federal holiday that is actually a day of service, that it is by design, a day of giving back in some capacity. Best part, we are not limited to January 16th! We don’t need a day off to get onboard with this mission, we can BE this dream. Year round, no matter where we go or what our schedules are, there is always room and always a need for another heart and hand willing to give. I was thinking of why so many local schools and even churches host canned food drives and how easy it is to support something so convenient and in most cases carries the effortless task of me pulling the excess from my pantry shelves. I still think supporting charity efforts in any capacity is good but I’ve decided to show up and to take my children alongside me when I can, sacrificing our most valuable resources (time and comfort) for the chance to see the impact of giving first hand. I believe that when we normalize serving in communities outside of the ones we are raising our kids in, we are giving them and us a practical opportunity to put into action all of those character traits that we are pouring into them.

BE the Village. BE the Voice.

“If we are to have peace on earth… Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.” -1967

Growing up in a small and traditional Southern Baptist church, I have always seen the church as a proverbial pillar in the community. Not only operating with the open invitation for those in need to come to for support but equally fostering the inherent obligation for us to reach out into the community, to seek out needs and lean in to them. As I got older I realized that this went beyond the tangibles, the church was a safe haven, a refuge, a place where you could find more than assistance, you could get advocacy and in the Black community, this still means everything. Even though I now attend a non-denominational church, still as a Christian, my greatest call is to love; and with that the notion to love the things that God loves- such as justice, peace, mercy, etc. I think even for many non-religious people, we’ve all learn in some shape or form the importance of treating others with kindness, respect and the power in speaking up for yourself or someone else in an unfair situation. This is an easy doctrine to follow for most of us but you know when this becomes difficult? When we struggle to empathize, when we don’t understand a perspective or we refuse to listen or believe that there even is a problem to be solved or need to be met. (Remember earlier how we can get stuck if there is an imbalance with logic and compassion).  Undeniably the developments in the media industry over these last few years has given us in-depth views of those in and outside of our communities and with it came a heightened consciousness of injustice and oppression not just in other parts of the world but right in our own country and no matter where you stood or what lens you were witnessing it with- it has had a devastating effect on all of us. As Americans, we have the freedom to birth and be loyal to our own ideas, beliefs and perspectives- the ugliest parts of our history have shown us what happens when we aren’t careful to consider others as we are exercising these rights. We can be single-minded in our own pursuit of the “American dream” peace, fortune and happiness that we forget we share an allegiance to “liberty and justice for all”. Dr. King was also raised in a traditional Southern Baptist church, learned those same tenets I did as a child and surely after becoming a pastor, was called upon for relief by his congregation, but he didn’t settle for comforting words, he didn’t stop at empathy, he didn’t even stop at his county line! He traveled the nation and beyond using his voice to give more than 2,500 speeches in the name of justice and equality. We know he could have done less for this movement, to wait for the next person to step up and lead, but he didn’t and what a contribution to the splendor of our country that he chose to stand up and speak out, living a life of advocacy for people and peace every step of the way. We can do this! We can BE the voice for those who are still fighting for their piece of the dream and you don’t have to look far. Educate yourself, examine your beliefs and perspectives, and take positive action in your home, in your church, your school, your community. I can attest that joining my church’s “Bridge Builders” group whose commitment to answering the call to be the voice for justice, true peace and unity has had a genuine healing and transformational effect on our community and me personally. In this diverse group I have learned so much about listening to understand, leaning in to independent and even contrary experiences and choosing my response and course of action based on my commitment to contributing to the changes that I want to see. It’s not too late to get involved, as one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quotes reminds us, “The time is always right to do what is right”.

BE Intentional. Live the Dream

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” 1963

This one is both simple and sweet. America is a melting pot, we do not have to go running around trying to find people who are not like us, on the contrary we just need to slow down and engage. If we step out of our homogenous circles to embrace people whose origins are different than ours, not only we will be changed for the better but we will simultaneously be working against the dark things in society that divide us. Our children come into this world with the purest of hearts and they are better than the best of us at seeking out interactions with others regardless of their differences. They don’t understand stereotypes yet, they haven’t built up their biases (well…talking people, not food here), they just see what’s in front of them and they move in. They are innately living Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, judging one another only by the content of the character they see and not by skin color, economic status, clothing, culture and NOT because they don’t notice these things but because they are intrigued by uniqueness and inspired by individuality. Mission complete then right? Nope, we’re not off the hook! We all know that kids are extremely observant and they are watching how WE live our lives, build our relationships, speak about and act around people who are different than us. Raising good-hearted, considerate, kind, tolerant, accepting, respectful and loving humans is not all about what happens IN the house, it has to be modeled, lived out. Follow their lead if you need to but be intentional and quite literally, mix it up! We can’t just celebrate the idea of the dream for unity, we have to LIVE the dream, simply because thanks to leaders like MLK, we can. This year was our  youngest child’s first year really learning about the legacy of the MLK Holiday and so we watched a couple of age appropriate videos on YouTube that walked through who he was and the importance of the Civil Rights Movement. I had to pause what seemed like every minute or so just to listen to her passionate objections as she was reacting in real time to these stories of injustice. I believe in teaching truth when it comes to history and I never know what they’ll draw from it but I love to let them hold on to whatever resonates with them. She’s my sassy girl, she goes into mama mode almost faster than me and so I should not have been surprised that her takeaway when the video was over was “segre-pa-ration” (segregation). As we talked about the different examples of inequality from the video, she paced between sadness and anger at the thought that without the changes that Dr. King fought for, not only would her little Kindergarten classmates and Sunday school peers not be able to play with her but she that she wouldn’t even be allowed in the same spaces with them, BECAUSE she has brown skin (which she is so proud of- along with her hair type, eyelashes and any other feature she’s noticed make her beautiful). So she chose for her “Living the Dream” activity yesterday to have a craft play date with one of her friends, a relationship that could easily be taken for granted but was fought for over 60 years ago! They are the light the world needs, this is the love the world needs and this is the ONLY way we can achieve it,Together.

I’ll leave off with the rap my 8 year old penned for his activity. May we all honor the mission beyond the MLK Holiday and strive to be more like these beautiful souls we’re nurturing.

No segregation/ No Separation

We need dedication/ to improve the Nation

Let’s have a conversation/ It takes you and me

If we’re really gonna have true unity

Stand up for what’s right/ No In-Between

Be Kind and Show Love/ Cause that’s the Dream!

-Micah Kendrick (age 8) – MLK Day 2023

Yuri Kendrick
Yuri Kendrick is a native Texan and has called the Greater Austin area home for most of her life. She is unashamedly a follower of Christ and a devoted wife to her favorite human and hubbeau, Tay. Together they are nurturing four beautiful souls, this she believes is her greatest honor in this life. She is a freelance creative, a worship leader, and a willing advocate for any cause that helps us all love one another better. Yuri loves so many things but maybe nothing more than a good laugh, a good meal and good conversation and she rightfully rejoices in the occasion that they occur simultaneously. Whether speaking or writing, she prides herself on being a genuine and conscious sharer. It is her heart's desire to be ever-evolving in her journeys with a passion to be both the “Salt and Light” along the way.


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