We as a society are seeing federal holidays becoming commodified instead of what they were intended for.
When I was in elementary school, every year we would have a Martin Luther King Jr. assembly discussing his accomplishments. Some grade levels offered performances to showcase something MLK did during the civil rights movement. At the end of every assembly the whole school would sing “We Shall Overcome” and when the final verse came, “We’ll walk hand in hand,” the whole school would be joined together.
It was something I looked forward to every year because it brought about a sense of unity. As I got older, I realized the significance of why we did this, because this action should be significant in our lives every day — being there for one another and standing up for what is right like MLK did.
When it comes to big sales taking place around days of recognition we think of Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day and Black Friday but the truth is retailers take advantage of any big holiday. Their ultimate goal is to increase sales turnover and customer activity, a tradition that has since bastardized the intrinsic values these holidays represent.
The biggest surprise I found was that there are even sales that happen on MLK weekend. It was a shock because it is not advertised as much as other sales despite it still happening.
Every major holiday is now a day in which big sales take over rather than focusing on what the day is supposed to be about. This day is one to remember what MLK did during the civil rights movement and the changes that he wanted to see happen in the world. Always taking place on the third Monday in Jan., and some years even falling on his birthday, Jan. 15. But, just like nearly every other holiday, these sales are taking over the meaning of the day, and this is the true problem.
Things started to change once I got into high school. I went to an alternative high school that did not have an actual building, so when we did have assemblies — which were very few — we would go to a building downtown. The first MLK assembly I attended in high school was an experience I was not expecting. Instead of preaching unity, holding hands or reflecting on the historical significance of the day, the school decided to put on a talent show that lasted for half the school day.
While a couple of students did something related to MLK, to me personally, this “assembly” was not as an MLK assembly should be. After my freshman year of high school, every year we had this same formula for our MLK assembly. I did not attend school these days because I felt that the school was not doing the day justice compared to what I was used to the past eight years.
I would sit at home to find a special that was about MLK, even if I watched the same special every year, this was my way of showing remembrance for what the holiday should really be about.
Schools need to bring back the MLK assembly by making it age appropriate for the age range, bringing back the significance of the holiday and not making it into a talent show. Bring kids together and help them understand that people go through different life experiences, teach students that standing up with peers is important when change is needed.
Not only are the media and companies taking away the importance of what these holidays actually stand for but, in a way, some of our schools are doing the same thing. The holiday gets blown over and barely talked about. This is something that should not be happening because these holidays have deep cultural and social significance behind them. Yet, it is still happening and it’s sad that things are going in this direction. We, as a society, need to go back to what these holidays are actually about in order to show our respect to the people they are representing.