MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY - A BOHO HISTORY LESSON
On the third January of every month, various parts of the world come together to celebrate the life and legacy of civil rights leader, activist, and minister, Martin Luther King Jr.
While it is well-known that Dr. King used his leadership to advocate for black people's right to vote, racial desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil liberties, many do not know that King was also a dedicated supporter of women's rights and equality.
Today we'll discuss how Martin Luther King Jr. not only pathed the way for black men during the civil rights movement but was an early and courageous supporter of black women's self-love and care by championing our collective freedom and wellbeing.
Did you know...
That Dr. King was an early supporter of Planned Parenthood and believed that birth control should not be demonized, but encouraged, considering that it protected women and was beneficial to community development as a whole.
In a 1957 Ebony Magazine "Advice for Living" column, King stated that:
"An intelligent mother wants [to have] a responsible motherhood —a motherhood to which she has given her consent, not a motherhood due to impulse and chance. And this means birth control in some form. All of these factors, seem to me, to make birth control rationally and morally justifiable."
In contemporary terms, this would align with the idea that what you do with your body in terms of pregnancy and motherhood is wholeheartedly your choice.
Martin Luther King Jr's most blatant support of black women was exercised in his willingness to give them the space to plan, organize, and march alongside him during a time where female voices were deliberately silenced and undervalued.
From Jo Ann Robinson—the true architect of the famed Montgomery bus boycott, to Dorothy Cotton—fellow civil rights leader who helped plan and prepare for countless, effective nonviolent marches and protests—many black women served as both confidants and an endless source of inspiration for Dr. King.
At the core of Martin Luther King's message...
He wanted us to understand that blackness was worth equality and pride because blackness is, in fact, beautiful:
"I want to get the language so right that everyone here will cry out: 'Yes, I'm Black, I'm proud of it. I'm Black and I'm beautiful!" And so, it's important to celebrate the beauty in blackness in every aspect. Our heritage, our skin, and our hair.
Celebrating the beauty of black hair is particularly important because for us culturally, hair is inextricably tied into our beauty standards.
And like Dr. King and the civil rights movement taught us, celebrating blackness is less about how they see us and more about how we see ourselves.
- We've been taught not to love what naturally grows from our hair. The idea that we have to relax and straighten this, and manipulate and slick down that, just to be beautiful is not true. We are beautiful with all the naps, kinks, and curls—not in spite of them.
- European beauty standards have always been our default standard for beauty and the truth that the civil rights movement showed us is that we are equal in all ways. Meaning, we don't have to adhere to what they want us to be, or even look like. We can simply be—and look like— exactly who we are.
- Hair love is self love! And in the words of Dr. King, "a firm sense of self-esteem is the most powerful weapon."
So in honor of Martin Luther King Jr on his special day, make sure to honor his work that celebrated and elevated the rights of the black community, the voices of black women, and the beauty of blackness.