Make it a day on, not a day off

  • Published
  • By Mark C. Overton
  • 2012 Multicultural Festival, African-American Subcommittee Project Officer
Did you know there are no federal or national holidays in the United States? Each of the 50 states has jurisdiction over its holidays; yet, 10 holidays per year are proclaimed by the federal government. When was the last time you participated in the celebration of an observance recognizing specific groups in our society? Special observances are a proud part of American history. As compared to other countries, the United States' culture and traditions are rich because of the contributions made by the many groups of people who have come to our shores over the past two centuries. In taking the time to learn 'America's history', we will not only increase our cross-cultural awareness, understanding and mutual respect, but also discover a fortune that may lie hidden from making the news or our history books.

An unknown author affirmed, "Minds are like parachutes, they only work when they're open". We can have an open mind without having a hole in our head. If we close our mind to possibilities and to change then we may be doomed to fail. Let me inform you why it's important to be a K.I.N.G. in recognizing the continuous achievements of all Americans to American culture.

Step out first with "K"... know, or be aware of the calendar of special observances by month and their related issues as well. Do you have a friend or loved one that fits in one or more of the nine observance categories we celebrate, listed at Which observance is celebrated as a federal holiday? Do you know the passage that gave women the right to vote? Is it sports tradition or racial overtones to use a Native American image as a mascot? According to a Fox News Poll in 2011, 63 percent of registered voters surveyed thought "illegal immigrants who have lived in the US since they were children should be eligible for legal citizenship". A Gallup poll conducted in 2007 found that "Americans are comfortable voting for a black (84 percent) or female (77 percent) presidential candidate".

Our next step is "I"... interact and participate in the different special observances versus just recognition of their existence. Do you recall the movie, Remember the Titans, which centered on racial tensions in the football team of the newly integrated T.C. Williams High School in Alexandra, VA in 1971? The coach initiated forceful coaxing and innovative team building efforts (e.g., sitting players on the bus by offensive/defensive team assignments rather than established friendships, assigning rooms to players accordingly and directing them to learn something new about their roommates' family and interests, etc). Eventually the team manages to achieve some form of unity, goes on to win the state championship and sets a positive example for the town. We too can step outside of our comfort zone and find common ground with special observances.

Another step is "N"... network as a total community in the sponsorship, planning, and participation of events. A Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute guide states "that following major on, and off base resources plays an essential role in sponsoring a special observance: strong command support and adequate funding; quality leadership and planning from the project officer; and cross-cultural and cross-gender community participation".

Our last step is "G"... get up and get going. Get involved in upcoming observances and activities throughout the year. You can make the observance a "day on for service and not just a day off from work." For example, to honor Dr. King's legacy of looking out for the underprivileged, you can volunteer and clean homes for the elderly, help build houses for the poor, clean and paint rooms in churches, or spend the day listening to recordings of King's speeches. On Feb 24, you can also come out and take part in a Black History Celebration luncheon at the Top of the Rock, and "Learnabration" at the Andersen and McCool elementary schools. Andersen will also hold a Multicultural Festival on May 18, at the Sunrise Conference Center.

In summary, it's important to celebrate the achievements and contributions of all Americans. These are not black or brown observances; they are people's observance ... for all people. Let's make these events society events instead of just special observances. I encourage you to be a K.I.N.G. in recognizing the achievements of all Americans. Be 'king of the hill' about KNOWING or being aware of the calendar of special observances. Besides recognition, 'king size' your INTERACTION and participate in the different special observances. They can't happen without you, Team Andersen. It's essential we NETWORK as a total community in making these events a reality and successful. There's a 'king in you'; GET UP AND GET GOING and get involved in observance activities throughout the year. In the words of Ola Joseph, a U.S. Navy veteran, speaker and author, Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another's uniqueness. Variety is the spice of life.