MLK Day of Service in the Time of COVID-19
• January 2021 •
From Juan Navarro, Executive Director
Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse
MLK Day of Service in the Time of COVID-19
Jan. 18, 2021 marks the 26th anniversary of the day of service that celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy. And what a life and legacy it was. A leader of ALL people, Dr. King never chose fear. He always chose courage and determination when fighting for civil rights in the face of oppression, ignorance and violence. Dr. King refused to allow prison, violence, or threat of death sway his end mission. Instead, he stood by his goal of achieving rights for all people through nonviolent protests. He was cut short by an assassin’s bullet at the age of 39, but what we do today can continue to further Dr. King’s work.
MLK Day is observed on the third Monday in January as “a day on, not a day off.” It’s the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve our communities.
Dr. King recognized the power of service. He famously said, “Everyone can be great because everybody can serve.” I love that observing the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday through service is a way to begin each year with a commitment to making our community a better place. Service honors Dr. King’s life and teachings and helps meet our community challenges. It brings people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities together for projects that can have a lasting impact. The most successful projects are those that connect to the life and teaching of Dr. King, meet a pressing community need, AND include time to reflect on his teachings.
We can honor Dr. King and be of service even in the time of COVID-19 by:
- Gathering up warm clothes and donating them to a shelter
- Calling an elderly relative or friend and asking if they need any errands run
- Sharing a personal mental health recovery story on https://www.howareyoureally.org/home
- Writing your Senator or Congressperson to tell them how substance use treatment worked for you
- Ordering from a Black-owned restaurant or small business in your community
- Donating money or time to a heartfelt cause or charity
- Picking up trash in a park, street, alley, or on the beach
- Tell someone younger than you about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and why what he did is important to you
And if you want to see what is happening on MLK Day in your community, check out:
“Yes, I do admire Dr. King and I have always wanted to show that in some way. Today, I have a chance to do it because I’m clean and sober for 18 months. Today, my world revolves around recovery because at one time I was a disgrace to myself, my family, and my people. A homeless addict, in and out of jail. I never thought about much other than myself and what I wanted. But even so, I was proud to be a Black man and I knew all about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from school. If I had had a dad, that was who I wanted him to be like. A proud Black man like Dr. King — educated, and dedicated to truth and justice. Well, I didn’t have no dad, but today I am one. I’m the father of twin boys and I teach them about recovery, truth, justice and who Dr. King was. I want them to be proud to be Black and I want them to go to college and make a difference in the world. Now I’m clean and sober, that’s the kind of things I think about. See what a difference recovery makes!”
SPOTLIGHT – THE EVIDENCE IS IN:
Culture and Recovery
Culture is defined as “a system of patterns of belief and behavior that shape the worldview of the member of a society.” Because of that, culture is an integral part of recovery from substance use and mental health disorders.
Research shows us that sociocultural beliefs shape behavior regarding behavioral health. Culture plays a central role in forming individual expectations about issues related to drugs, alcohol, and mental illness. Acculturation, the degree to which an individual identifies with his/her/their native culture, is also related to behavioral health. For example, American Indian elders believe that many substance use problems are related to the loss of traditional culture. Higher rates of substance use have been found in persons who closely identify with non-American Indian values and the lowest rates are found in bicultural individuals who are comfortable with both sets of cultural values.
As healthcare professionals, it’s particularly important to consider a patient’s cultural background when assessing for substance use or dependence. Rather than assuming, we should ask each patient to talk about:
1) cultural identity/identification;
2) cultural explanation of the illness;
3) cultural factors related to psychosocial environment and levels of functioning;
4) cultural elements of the relationship between the individual and the clinician, and
5) overall cultural assessment for diagnosis and care.
Knowing how culture affects an individual patient’s behavioral health beliefs and attitudes will help us reach out to family members, tribal groups, families, traditional healers, religious entities, legal authorities, and local health care providers – all of whom can all be involved in our patient’s healing and recovery process.
Learn more about: culture and recovery