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MLK Day: Bending Our Universe Toward Justice

January 16, 2023
By AJ Bockelman

Many see January as a time to reflect, regroup and consider the work ahead. As we look for inspiration, the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day offers an opportunity to reflect on how we intentionally shape that work so that it centers upon justice and equity.

Dr. King’s legacy is one that sought to lift up people and create the “Beloved Community” he envisioned – despite the deep-rooted racism and discrimination against Black Americans at the time. He courageously called people to the streets in non-violent protest and shared a vision that built the modern civil rights movement.

This year will mark 60 years since Dr. King’s historic 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, and in that time, he has been lionized and regarded as one of the most prominent figures of the civil rights moment. However, it shouldn’t be lost on us that Dr. King wasn’t held in such high regard in his day. He inspired people to speak truth to power in ways that disrupted the status quo. Words were not enough though. Dr. King’s actions accompanying those words led him to be reviled by many, including in the media, and ultimately led to his imprisonment.

Yet despite those setbacks, Dr. King’s steadfast convictions and actions led to change for Black Americans. And by him clearly articulating how we structure our laws and communities, it has led to change for other voices too that have often been forgotten, ignored or targeted. During his lifetime, Dr. King shaped laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since then, his legacy continues to reverberate over decades of progress in civil rights laws that have expanded protections for many people.

And while we still bear witness to the fact that Dr. King’s dream is not yet fulfilled through the injustices and inequities we experience to this day, we can point to change that continues to advance his vision. 

With that, we strive to honor Dr. King’s legacy in how we approach our work at FleishmanHillard all year long. Our DE&I journey is certainly inspired by his legacy. We reflect on Dr. King’s teachings as we continually evaluate how we approach and support our colleagues, clients and communities, and as we seek to broaden our perspectives and understand the lived experiences of others to create an inclusive environment.

As part of our FH4Inlusion work, we’ve engaged in some incredible work with The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change based in Atlanta, where Dr. Bernice A. King, MLK’s daughter, is CEO. We shared details of our work in an earlier blog post. Across our FleishmanHillard headquarters office in St. Louis, my fellow colleagues and I collaborate with leadership to convene thoughtful discussions and activities that elevate diverse voices and create opportunities to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other.

It is hard work, but we must commit ourselves to effect positive change and continue to honor Dr. King’s dream. For me at least, a queer member of Generation X, FleishmanHillard has created a space where I find my voice valued and not just in some niche way. My perspective has been directly impacted by the legacy of Dr. King and I feel a responsibility to continue understanding the lived experiences of others. That is how I personally choose to honor his memory. The collective intention behind this work in our personal and professional lives, and across our communities, is how we will advance justice and equity.

As we celebrate MLK Day and consider the work ahead in our workplaces, communities and broader society in 2023, let us all be inspired and guided by Dr. King’s legacy and teachings. He reminded us that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Let’s continue to bend our own universe.