Lean into Learning to Celebrate MLK Day

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  A day that is dedicated to honoring a key leader of the civil rights movement in the United States.  In 2020 we saw a wave of racial unrest which highlighted the continued racism in our country.  Because of this, I feel an increased urgency to keep Dr. King’s dream of a more equitable America alive.  One way I believe that we can honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream is to take the time to learn about and have difficult conversations about racism in America.  As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”   So today, I challenge you to celebrate MLK Day by taking some time to find a book, article, podcast, or movie to continue to expand your understanding of racism.  To get you started, I wanted to share some resources I have found particularly helpful in my journey on this issue.  (Note: These are not affiliate links and Unexpected Ever Afters does not benefit from sharing these resources).  

Non-Fiction Books

  • How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.  The book is heavy and packed full of information, definitions, and stories.  One of my favorite themes throughout the book was the focus on making policy changes.   Kendi wrote, “Americans have long been trained to see the deficiencies of people rather than policy. It’s a pretty easy mistake to make: People are in our faces. Policies are distant. We are particularly poor at seeing the policies lurking behind the struggles of people.”  As we continue to navigate the issues surrounding racism, it’s essential to acknowledge that part of systemic change will need to come from updates to our local and national policies. 
  • Stamped by Ibram X. Kendi.  This is written as a “young adult” book; however, I find that this makes the historical information more straightforward and understandable.  This book highlights the way that past racism expressed through policies and culturally accepted norms has had a continued impact on current policies and experiences.
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Coates’s book is a letter addressed to his 15-year-old son.  He discusses growing up in Baltimore and the realities of being Black in America. The story is honest, raw, and heartbreaking.  
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made For Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown.  In this book, Brown shares her experience growing up and living as a Black, Christian, Female in a majority white town.  I really appreciate her honesty and vulnerability as she shares about personal experiences that have shaped her into the author and advocate she is today.  This book is unforgettable, and it had an instant and lasting influence on me to be a better social worker.

Fiction Books

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  This is a story about a 16 year old girl who witnesses her 16 year old black male friend being shot by the police.  Thomas writes with passion, empathy, and honesty.  I could not put this book down.  It was written in 2017, but I feel like it could have been written this summer.  It is heartbreakingly relevant and I highly recommend it.  
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid.  This book is about a young adult black woman who babysits a young white child.  The story begins with the babysitter being accused of kidnapping the child when they are at the grocery store together.  Reid is engaging and articulate about the dynamics between various characters and the way that race impacts those relationships.  The book is informative and powerful as we continue to navigate complex racial issues in our country.


  • The Skimm. This is my go-to website for all my daily news, which is how I came across their section regarding systemic racism.  I found this article on systemic racism helpful and a great starting place to better understand how widespread historical, as well as current, policies have impacted where we are today as a country.
  • Be the Bridge by Latasha Morrison.  This is a book as well as an online community.  The vision of Be the Bridge “is that people and organizations are aware and responding to the racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world.”  There is an active Facebook group with a very clearly laid out curriculum to share information on how to be a better ally and “Bridge Builder”.


  • Jen Hatmaker For the Love Podcast Series 29: For the Love of Black Lives.  Hatmaker wrote, “It’s time for each of us to raise our voices with the Black community as we come together to fight for the wholeness and dignity of Black children and adults in our country and across the world.”  The series is thought provoking, honest, and important.  It is full of interviews with amazing, inspiring, Black women.
  • Brene Brown Unlocking Us: Episodes from June 3 and June 10, 2020.  Brown interviews both Ibram X. Kendi and Austin Channing Brown.  Both interviews are great introductions to these two incredible authors and both share thoughtful, impactful, information for suggestions on how to move forward in our communities and in our country.


Movies are not my typical method of accessing information.  However, I wanted to share a couple of movies that have been recommended to me several times as being especially poignant stories on racism and justice.

  • Just Mercy. This is a movie based off of a best selling book.  It looks closely at America’s criminal justice system and the realities of inequality and injustice. I have been told that it is heartbreaking, eye-opening, and a must see (or read).
  • Fruitvale Station. A movie about Oscar Grant III, a 22-year old that was fatally shot by the Police in 2009.  This movie was described to me as “eye-opening” and “powerful.”

As we honor and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today, I encourage you to learn more about the causes he fought for and how you can make a difference in the continued fight against racism in our country today.  This list is just a starting point of some of the resources that have been impactful for me. There are countless resources offering additional information on the issue of racism in our country. Please share in the comments any resources you recommend as we all continue learning together.    

Jessica is a wife, mom, school social worker, and aspiring writer.  She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters.

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