The real meaning of MLK Jr. Day

Friday, January 17, 2020

On January 20, we again commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For many, it may be a day that you have a day off work or out of school, but we want to remember what this day is really all about: equality.

Nia Mitchell, MD, knew she wanted to be a medical doctor since she was in high school. She grew up in the New Orleans metropolitan area and recalls stories from her parents who experienced segregation firsthand.

“Although racism still exists, I recognize that I was lucky to be born when I was because I never had to combat the legislated discrimination my parents did,” says Mitchell. “They grew up in an era where laws enforced segregation – they had to sit in the back of public buses, in the balconies of movie theaters, and at separate counters in five and dime stores. In school, they had to learn from old textbooks that were no longer good enough for white schools. They had use separate – and inferior – water fountains and bathrooms. Things were separate, but certainly not equal."

"I recognize that I was lucky to be born when I was because I never had to combat the legislated discrimination my parents did."

- Nia Mitchell, MD, GIM Assistant Professor of Medicine

Dr. Mitchell has always been an outspoken person who stands up for what she believes in and is not afraid to voice her opinion. 

 “Even though they knew their lives were in danger, Dr. King was one of many who were killed because they were outspoken in fighting for equality. Thankfully, my life is not in danger for being outspoken today, whereas back then, it could have been," she says.

“Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'”

MLK was always one to help others in need, as is Dr. Mitchell. 

“I am really passionate about helping the underserved,” says Mitchell, who’s primary research interests are weight loss. She explains she chose the underserved population for her research because they are most affected by medical conditions associated with excess weight, and they have the least access to resources to help them lose weight

The Holiday

January 20th marks the 34th Martin Luther King Jr. Day in our nation's history. This holiday has been observed on the third Monday of January rather than on King’s birthday (January 15) because of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister and activist at the forefront of the civil rights movement. He organized peaceful protests against white supremacy, poverty, and war, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King was assassinated in 1968 when he was just 39 years old.

“Let’s all try to remember the real meaning for this holiday and honor it every day."

- Nia Mitchell, MD

A favorite quote from Dr. King

Mitchell’s favorite quote from Martin Luther King Jr. is “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”