things you can do today.

January 21, 2019
four things to do on MLK Jr. Day | reading my tea leaves

Four things to do today to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

+ Listen to the Seeing White podcast. I suggested this last year at this time and (many times before that) but it remains an excellent starting spot for White people grappling with their whiteness, their racism, and its impact. Begin the eleven-part series today.

+ Donate to Brooklyn Bail Fund, an organization fighting injustice one bail at a time. For New Yorkers who can’t afford to pay even a modest bail and who would otherwise be jailed or forced to plead guilty, Brooklyn Bail Fund provides “radical intervention in a system that treats people differently based on wealth, skin color, and influence.” They’re “challenging the criminalization of race and poverty, the practice of putting a price on fundamental rights, and the persistent myth that bail is a necessary element of the justice system.” Donate today.

+ Talk frankly to kids. The Conscious Kid is one of my favorite places to find research and resources about educating kids honestly and candidly about race. Here’s their list of children’s books Honoring the Life & Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Follow their work on Instagram. Donate to support their lending library and book donations to Title I schools and low-income families.

+ Read Robin DiAngelo. Start with this op-ed in the Guardian and continue with her book, White Fragility, which “explores the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.” (Also, always: Read what Black women are writing. Here are a few good places to start.)

More ideas here.

PS. Image above from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. Please read the full letter here.

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  • Reply Tony W January 21, 2019 at 10:25 am

    I like to use this day as the time to reflect how humanity treats one another. Wow, after reading this I feel I need to step my game up a little bit. LOL. Enjoy the day 😉

  • Reply anne January 21, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    PS i think the ‘seeing white’ link may be broken—it leads to a ‘this page cannot be found.’ try this maybe?

    and thanks for all of these great ideas. <3

  • Reply Gill F. January 21, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    Back in high school we used to have this day off, but my school scheduled a day of events, speakers, and service projects. This was because they believed the best way to honor MLK was to learn and get your hands dirty helping others. So, off I trucked to my job today, a day after a massive snowstorm. My car slipped and skid its way to an outreach fair where I recruited people to volunteer at our library, had kids make Valentine’s Day cards for homebound seniors and vets, and got to talk with all sorts of people about why our public libraries are important. I was thanked more than once for being open on such a cold and bitter day, and I responded ‘it’s what we do.’ It’s just what we do. Put those words into action 🙂

    • Reply Sasha L January 21, 2019 at 2:03 pm

      Gill, this is very inspiring, thank you for your work.

  • Reply Cindy January 21, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    White woman here. Although I agree with some of the above commenters that it is always a good idea to reflect in general on how to respect the humanity in each person, I want to amplify Erin’s message that MLK day is a good time to reflect on race in particular and how our long and troubled history continues to perpetuate oppression of BIPOC.

    Erin, I can’t tell you how important the “Seeing White” series has been for me. It was a very accessible starting point for a lot of good and hard thinking. I first heard about it on this blog, and it was a game-changer.

    I’d also like to recommend the free download of “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla Saad. My family and I are currently going through it. We often struggle to answer the questions, but I think that’s actually the point: a dawning awareness and ability to locate our white privilege. At the very least, it defines important terms and gives us language to describe what we are seeing and doing.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 21, 2019 at 8:25 pm

      Yes, entirely agree! Thanks so much for your note.

  • Reply Maryann January 22, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    My 12-year old son had a stomach bug this past weekend and felt AWFUL and just laid on the couch. So I read aloud to him “The Hate U Give”. I’m not sure it was the best read-aloud book (I could’ve filled an entire swear jar and then some if we had such a thing), but what a powerful story. We talked about it endlessly this weekend: how it relates to us and our community. He is in 7th grade and has this amazing social studies teacher right now who is blowing his mind with units on race and indigenous people and culture and colonialism. Thank you for these resources that you mentioned here – they sound excellent and I will check them out.

  • Reply Jessica January 24, 2019 at 1:55 am

    At what age did your kids start understanding how to help themselves or put something away? My daughter is 1 yo, her favorite game is to pick something on a shelf, put it on the floor, then back on the shelve, than back on the floor, etc. But it’s just a game and I don’t know when I should start introducing some tyding notions?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 24, 2019 at 6:32 am

      I’d say it sounds like your kid is already doing it! In Montessori classrooms they’d actually call this sort of play, work! Sounds like she’s figuring it out!

  • Reply Britta January 25, 2019 at 4:26 am

    Thank you for this list! So easy to forget my own privilege.

  • Reply Lauren February 1, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    Thank you for pointing me towards The Conscious Kid. I was intrigued and subscribed to the lending library for my 2.5 year old daughter after reading your post. We got our first three books today and are absolutely thrilled! I’m so happy this project exists – what a wonderful idea!

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