Martin Luther King Jr. is celebrated all over America every January for the sacrifices he made to pursue equal rights for African-Americans.

A lot of us get a day off each year in his name.

But it's easy to romanticize an icon's past without appreciating that his struggle has stretched on into the present and future. In the case of Martin Luther King Jr., one of the best ways to honor him is by supporting those who carry on the work of equal rights for all.


Here are five leaders you can support and follow today to honor and carry on his legacy.

1. Bernice King, MLK's daughter, who is a prolific civil rights leader.

"Struggle is a never-ending process."

Bernice heads the King Center, which provides training and so much more for the many groups taking on tough civil rights work. In Ferguson, Missouri, last year, the King Center provided nonviolent direct action training to protestors and even worked to foster understanding between officers and the community they police.

Image by Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images.

Bernice told Democracy Now! in 2015:

"The reality is we’re at a crossroads, because the Voting Rights Act has been gutted. And there’s so many people now that have been disenfranchised. And so, in the words of my mother, struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you have to earn it and win it in every generation. And there must be a resurgence of the fight for that struggle, to guarantee that those people, going forward, will have the same opportunity to have their voices heard and their vote registered."

2. Congressman John Lewis, the last living speaker from the 1963 March on Washington.

Lewis in 1964 via Marion S. Trikosko/U.S. News and World Report/Wikimedia Commons. Lewis in 2006 via U.S. Congress/Wikimedia Commons.

On Aug. 28, 1963, civil rights activists from all over America marched in Washington, D.C., where MLK gave his legendary "I Have a Dream" speech.

Lewis, then-chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, also spoke. Today, he spends his time as a congressman from Georgia, fighting legislation that would make it harder for people — disproportionately, black people — to vote.

In the Washington Post, he wrote:

"It is unbelievable to me that decades after Selma there are still hindrances — such as too few voting machines at some locations — that force people to wait hours to vote or to leave in frustration. I saw people waiting in unmoving lines at the polls in 2012 and 2014. Sure, there has been progress. No potential voter is trampled by horses or asked to count the bubbles in a bar of soap today, but circumstances still exist that discourage the political participation of every American."

3. Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer, scholar, and public speaker trying to revamp the way America looks at justice.

Image by James Duncan Davidson/Wikimedia Commons.

In addition to curbing voting rights, disproportionate sentencing is another way our systems make it harder to be black in America. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative to change that.

In this gut-punching excerpt from his TED Talk, Stevenson talks about the application of the death penalty in the United States:

"I was giving some lectures in Germany about the death penalty. It was fascinating because one of the scholars stood up after the presentation and said, 'Well you know it's deeply troubling to hear what you're talking about.' He said, 'We don't have the death penalty in Germany. And of course, we can never have the death penalty in Germany.' And the room got very quiet, and this woman said, 'There's no way, with our history, we could ever engage in the systematic killing of human beings. It would be unconscionable for us to, in an intentional and deliberate way, set about executing people.'

And I thought about that. What would it feel like to be living in a world where the nation state of Germany was executing people, especially if they were disproportionately Jewish? I couldn't bear it. It would be unconscionable.

And yet, in this country, in the states of the Old South, we execute people — where you're 11 times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white than if the victim is black, 22 times more likely to get it if the defendant is black and the victim is white — in the very states where there are buried in the ground the bodies of people who were lynched."



4. #BlackLivesMatter, which was named one of the runners-up on Time's Person of the Year list, has awoken a new fight for civil rights.

While the hashtag and the movement it's come to represent are not technically a person, its importance is both remarkable and too diffuse to be concretely contained under its creators' names.

Image by The All-Nite Images/Flickr.

Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi are noted as the founders, but the organization now comprises 30 chapters around the country.

From Ferguson to Chicago to St. Paul and many more locations, #BlackLivesMatters activists show up in droves where there is injustice to people of color, particularly when the injustice is done at the hands of police.

5. Ava DuVernay, a filmmaker who is keeping the push for equal rights alive and bringing it to us in our entertainment.

DuVernay produced and directed "Selma," a gem among so many of her great films, which underscored just how much remains to be accomplished for civil rights.

Image by usbotschaftberlin/Flickr.

"'Selma' is one of the best American films of the year — and indeed perhaps the best — precisely because it does not simply show what Dr. King did for America in his day; it also wonders explicitly what we have left undone for America in ours.”
— James Rocchi, The Wrap


DuVernay has also publicly called for more inclusivity in Hollywood after "Selma" didn't win any Oscars:

"The question is: Why was Selma the only film that was even in the running with people of color for the award? You know what I mean? I mean, why are there not — not just black, brown people? You know what I mean? Asian people, indigenous people, representations that are more than just one voice, just one face, just one gaze? So, for me, it’s much less about the awards and the accolades, because, literally, next year no one cares. Right? I can’t even tell you who won the award for whatever three years ago. I don’t know."

She is such an inspirational figure that Mattel made a limited-edition Ava DuVernay doll:

The civil rights movement marches on. We support it or we end up on the wrong side of history.

Civil rights aren't just some idea in our textbooks that happened in the '60s and no longer need our attention. Civil rights are all around us and are calling out for our support every day — when an unarmed black child gets shot in Cleveland or when a 101-year-old grandmother can't exercise her right to vote because of red tape. When a well-meaning but uninformed relative proclaims "all lives matter" or when we see a traffic stop gone wrong that we ought to be recording.

It's up to each and every one of us to learn how we can keep Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream alive.

We can do this.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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This guy would have a hard time saying "french fry." Tragic.

Processed food gets a bad rap. But without it, we might have never been able to even say the word “food.” Or “friendly,” or “fun” or “velociraptor” for that matter. Why is that?

“F’s” and “v’s” belong to a group of sounds known as labiodentals. They happen when you raise your bottom lip to touch your top teeth and are used in more than half of today’s human language. But science suggests we didn’t always have this linguistic ability.

As hunter gatherers, our ancestors ate a diet that was minimally processed and required more effort to chew. As a result, by adolescence their teeth would develop what’s called an edge-to-edge bite, where the jaw is elongated so that both the bottom and top teeth are completely flush with one another.

Cue the Neolithic period, where widespread agriculture meant more soft foods like stew and bread and less laborious chewing. Over time, the slight overbite that most people are born with stayed preserved, because chewing was less of an arduous process.
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"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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