In 1994 former Pennsylvania US Senator Harris Woffard and Georgia Congressman John Lewis sponsored a bill establishing Martin Luther King Day as a National Day of Service. The bill passed, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Since then, Martin Luther King day has been considered “a day on, not a day off.” Volunteers across the United States donate their time and energy to make a difference on this day.
The life of Martin Luther King is inspiring to those involved in social justice movements. King devoted his life to the struggle against segregation and racism. He was a tireless advocate for equality, peace, and on behalf of the poor. He made the ultimate sacrifice due to his life of service and activism. While most of us will not be called upon to do this, we can use this National Day of Service as an opportunity to devote our lives to the fight against injustice and oppression.
This includes the modern-day abolitionist movement. Organizations like End Slavery Now try to act in accord with the words of Dr. King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” The plight of those trapped in modern day enslavement compel us to take action by raising awareness of human trafficking and expressing solidarity with survivors. After all, they are part of our "network of mutuality."
If you are looking for an opportunity to volunteer your time with an anti-trafficking organization, End Slavery Now’s website has a list of relevant organizations. If you are busy MLK Day, that’s OK! Many of the organizations on this list will accept volunteers year-round. They may also have job openings if you’re looking for a career as a modern-day abolitionist.
Take the opportunity today to think about Martin Luther King and how he would have felt about modern-day enslavement. Educate yourself about the topic. Like and follow abolitionist groups and organizations on social media. Always remember that we are indeed “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”
Dr. Celia Williamson is an academic and activist combating human and labor trafficking. Her podcast is a good resource for modern-day abolitionists.
Emmanuel Jal is a former child soldier who has turned to rap as a way to heal his trauma and to keep other Sudanese children from being trafficked. Get inspired by the story of this remarkable survivor and activist.