Martin Luther King Day is probably one of the least appreciated holidays celebrated in the United States. Many people still feel resentment about the holiday. Some people feel that more radical leaders, such as Malcolm X, should have been honored, while other people believe that no one from the civil rights movement should be remembered with a national holiday.
Those sentiments really are shameful because they only serve to bring down the holiday. As a white American, I am ashamed that more white people do not celebrate the holiday since all Americans benefited from the work that civil rights workers did. As for King himself, I understand exactly why there is resentment about his name being attached to the holiday, but I think of it more as a general celebration of the works of generations of civil rights workers.
With that said, this year will be my first full day with a baby on Martin Luther King Day. I say first full day because my son was born on MLK Day in 2005. Having a baby on MLK Day makes me rethink the actions that my husband and I have taken on the past. Doing so led me to come up with a few ideas for you to celebrate MLK Day with your baby.
First, you can go to a parade. This action is the least active you can be, but with a little baby, sometimes that is enough. Even a baby of six months will be able to appreciate the sights and sounds of the parade. Do not be surprised, however, if the excitement puts baby to sleep. Babies tend to crash when they are over-stimulated, and a parade may be just the place. If you do attend a parade, be sure to get there early and not to stand too close. The noise of the crowd may be too much for your baby.
Another option is to check out the local bookstores. Your best bet is to pick bookstores that are independent or that have specific feminist or African American themes. Call ahead to see what they are doing. Even medium-sized bookstores will tend to have events available, and some of them may be geared toward small children. Also try your local library. Remember that while your baby may not be able to participate in the events, just taking him for exposure at this early age will start a lifetime of learning.
Try using the day to support charity. Many National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapters offer activities throughout the day, such as neighborhood clean-ups. You can take even a baby to these events. While you may not get as much done as other volunteers, you will be teaching your child that you help the community and the value of working together.
With little babies, you may want to work on an individual type of charity. Take some time to take food to the local food pantry or donate old clothing. These types of charity are lessons you can teach your child by following your example.
If you are looking for something quieter, then you may want to try educational activities at home. You can find a children's book that honors the holiday and read it to your baby. Try crafts that you can associate with the holiday. Get a picture book. Talk to your baby about how important it is to have equality. Set the foundation now for teaching your child about the history of our nation.
Regardless of how you celebrate Martin Luther King Day with your baby, try to use it as a time to teach your child. Just as you begin teaching baby about Christmas or Hanukah or Ramadan, use this time to teach your little one about the nation's history and the struggles that have brought us to our current state. If you are creative, you can work your baby into any celebration that you have. You will need to keep baby's limitations, such as attention span and feeding and napping needs, into account, but otherwise you can plan to honor Martin Luther King with your baby. And if you have never celebrated yourself, let this year be your time to begin!
By Julia Mercer