Dear Ohlone Community,
On Monday, Jan. 17, we honor the life and legacy of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a legendary man whose inspiring words and actions of social justice helped lead this nation to pass historic federal laws banning discrimination in numerous areas, including voting and fair housing. As a reminder, Ohlone College will be closed on Monday in recognition of MLK Day. For many in this country, this is just another three-day weekend.
Let’s not do that. Let’s not just observe the holiday this year.
Let us instead celebrate and continue the work and sacrifices of this incredible man, who left this country in a much better place than he found it. A man who was killed for his pursuit of a fair and equitable society where he hoped people would respect, love and embrace the differences among us. A man whose dream inspired millions to March on Washington and peaceably protest racial inequality, bias, oppression and violence for all in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.
Nearly 60 years have passed since that March on Washington, and we have barely moved the needle. The senseless deaths of so many weighs heavy on our hearts, calling for us to not only humanize persons of color, but lead and encourage conversations about racial, economic and social disparities that exist within the wealthiest nation of the world. Don’t just look up “MLK” on the Internet and read about him – learn his background; discover his writings and speeches; understand the social context of his time.
Then, take a look around for your opportunity to honor Dr. King by being of service to others. Volunteer at a local nonprofit – AmeriCorps has an online MLK Day database you can access here to find local volunteer opportunities. You can donate to your preferred social justice nonprofit organization. You can sign up with the Smithsonian Institution or the Library of Congress to digitally transcribe historical documents that range from African American history to women’s suffrage, among others – it helps make these kinds of documents more available to the public. Grab your cell phone and search for “on-demand volunteering” apps. Or simply take the time to help those around you – make a grocery trip for quarantined family and friends; drop off winter coats at the local children’s shelter; work a few hours at a local food pantry. As important, you can call members of congress and impress on them to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act so that everyone one of us can enjoy our full citizenry.
If you are participating in a service activity this weekend, I encourage you to inspire others to do the same – take a photo and post your Day of Service activity to your social media channels and add #MLKDayforOhloneFamily.
Here at Ohlone, it is our honor and privilege to help teach students to engage in society, think critically, be creative, and reach for the stars while having the courage to confront today’s problems and lead the conversations that will bring us to a better place.
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education,” Dr. King once said. We are ready and willing to do the work, and we thank you for helping us change the world.
Eric B. Bishop
Ohlone Community College District