5 amazing people doing the work MLK did not live to complete.

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.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

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Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!