Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He would grow to change the nation and the landscape of racial equality forever.

His remarkable life is memorialized on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day observed on the third Monday of January each year. Dr. King had a seismic effect on nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement. The campaign for a federal holiday in King’s honor began soon after his assassination in 1968, and was introduced as a bill by Representative John Conyers and Senator Edward Brooke; however, the bill was five votes short of passage.

Some years later, Representative Katie Hall sponsored a bill to create the federal holiday honoring Dr. King and it was signed into law in 1983 under President Ronald Reagan. The holiday was first observed three years later on January 20, 1986, and was first officially commemorated in all 50 states as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the year 2000. Only two other individuals have national holidays in the United States honoring their lives and achievements: George Washington and Christopher Columbus.

Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” In response to that question, the national Martin Luther King Day of Service originated with former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, who sponsored the King Holiday and Service Act of 1994. This legislation challenges Americans to transform the King Holiday into a day of citizen action volunteer service in honor of Dr. King. The bill was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 23rd of the same year. In honor of MLK, hundreds of organizations and volunteers across the country donate their time each year in a concentrated effort to make a difference on this day.

Locally, the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, led by Executive Director DuShun Scarbrough, hosted the “2015 A Day of Service – A Day On, Not a Day Off” at the Benton Events Center on January 19. The two aspects of the event, a celebratory component and a service component, gave participants the opportunity to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and serve others in the spirit of his guiding principles.

“The mission of this commemoration is to promote the King Philosophy, which includes the Six Principles of Nonviolence, the Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change, and the concept of the Beloved Community, thus reaching the objective to promote awareness and appreciation of the Civil Rights movement and advocacy of Dr. King’s philosophies,” said Scarbrough. “This is all in an effort to help achieve Dr. King’s dream of understanding and acceptance of nonviolence and human equality as a way of building common unity amongst all Arkansans.”

For the 2015 event, the Commission partnered with the Benton Chamber of Commerce, the Ralph Bunche Community Development Corporation, Entergy, The Arkansas Humanities Council and Power 92-Cumulus broadcasting. Scarbrough specifically acknowledged local agencies for their participation. “We have received tremendous support from Mayor David Mattingly, his staff, the Benton Chamber of Commerce, Benton Police Department, Benton Fire Department and the business community. The Benton Event Center and the Benton Community have been great!”

The high-energy celebration included keynote speaker Eric Braeden, who plays Victor Newman in the long-running hit daytime series “The Young and The Restless,” as well as a visit from newly elected Governor Asa Hutchinson, which was his first public appearance as Arkansas’ governor, and Miss Arkansas 2014, Ashton Campbell. Lunches, concessions, mobile phones, a car and bike show and face painting for the kids were also provided at no charge.

According to Scarbrough, the service component of the event covered a wide variety of needs in Saline County. “At the Benton Events Center we hosted a canned food drive, provided hygiene kits for at-risk children and families, collected Coats for Kids, provided job counseling as well as access to health screenings during the King Holiday Health fair.”

On an on-going basis, the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission focuses its efforts to promote the legacy and philosophy of Dr. King throughout the State of Arkansas and abroad. The Arkansas MLK, Jr. Commission works closely with the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia and other social service organizations alike. The Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission has been recognized by the King Center as being the most active King Commission in the nation.

For information on how to get involved with the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, email the executive director at, call 501-683-1300 or follow them on facebook to receive updates on volunteer opportunities and upcoming programs.