Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, ask: ‘What are you doing for others?’

By Dania Matos

martin luther king jr speaks on sproul plaza in a black and white photo
Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke on campus, on May 17, 1967. He spoke out against the Vietnam War, and drew a crowd of thousands to Sproul Plaza less than a year before his assassination. (UC Berkeley photo by Helen Nestor)

This year more than any other, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a day for me to pause, reflect and recommit to the actions embodied through his leadership.

I’ve come into this new year with high hopes for a mental and emotional reset. And yet, the exhausting uncertainty of our world continues: Will COVID-19 ever wane? Will Dr. King’s vision ever become a reality? Will the continued activism of so many lead to an end of white supremacy, the creation of a just world or the protection of our democracy?

So much remains uncertain, but my resolve and hope are constant. For me, this upheaval necessitates centering myself, my work, my commitments and most of all my expressions of love and my tenacity to lead with it.

I’m reminding myself often of the words Dr. King said to an audience in 1957 in Montgomery, Alabama: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

The quote is one of his more popular ones, featured on inspirational posters across the country. But it is especially powerful for me in this moment, on this day of reflecting and recommitting, when self care isn’t the single solution but caring and doing for ourselves and each other becomes the only antidote.

I ground myself and my work in “leading with love.” I hope you all do that on this day, creating spaces to care for others, allowing yourself to be cared for and centering the beauty that love and honoring the ideals of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging and justice creates in the center of injustice.