The annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance is a time that the country celebrates, commemorates and honors the life, legacy and impact of the beloved Civil Rights Leader. As nations around the world continue to struggle under the weight of violence, hate and poverty, today’s social, political and economic landscape reveals the urgent necessity of Dr. King’s philosophy and methodology of nonviolence.

The 2023 theme from The King Center is ‘It Starts with Me: Cultivating a Beloved Community Mindset to Transform Unjust Systems’. This theme defines the 2023 King Holiday Observance events and programming while serving as a compass for all the work that is yet to be done.

“The pioneering work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrated that Kingian Nonviolence is the sustainable solution to injustice and violence in our world, ultimately leading to the creation of the Beloved Community, where injustice ceases and love prevails,” the Center said in a statement.

This year’s observation comes as the nation continues to grapple with transforming unjust systems, and Dr. King’s family and The King Center in Atlanta are using the 2023 holiday to highlight the struggle for justice through nonviolence.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee remembers Dr. King.

Dr. King’s words about justice, equality, change, helping others and love inform the work of people across the world. We asked local leaders to weigh in on what the theme means to them.

“There are some who believe that if we leave the world alone, the world will leave us alone. I am not one of them. It is not enough to live and let live, we must live and help live. For a community to progress in unity, transform unjust systems, and metamorphose into a beloved community, it must not ignore the needs of its neighbors. A beloved community cannot be isolated. It cannot bear witness to, yet ignore, the needs of its neighbors. It cannot thrive in the shadows of its neighbors that are struggling to survive. A beloved community extends the hand of friendship to neighbors during their time of need. A beloved community is rooted in the righteous belief of but for the grace of God there go I. Communities need to understand each other’s differences, respect those differences, and speak up when hatred, the insidious enemy of the beloved community, is weaponized against those differences. Speaking up against weaponized hate in all of its invidious forms—including xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism—is the collective responsibility of the beloved community. Only when each of us practices the live and help livephilosophy can we transform unjust systems into a beloved community.”

-Congressman Al Green

“As a public servant, I have focused on creating equity and opportunity in the way Dr. King so boldly envisioned the beloved community where everyone is cared for, absent of poverty, hunger, and hate. As mayor, I have worked tirelessly to increase economic opportunities and build a strong foundation for the future. My focus has always been building more affordable housing, addressing homelessness and public safety, environmental justice, and creating thousands of jobs for young people through my Hire Houston Youth program. During my administration, minority contractors have done more business with the City than ever before, which helps to create economic empowerment. My Complete Communities initiative works across private, public, and nonprofit sectors to collectively overcome economic, environmental, and equity challenges to transform Houston’s historically underserved and under-resourced neighborhoods. As honorary chair of the Houston Fund for Social Justice and Economic Equity, we provide support and financial assistance to help Houston-area, diverse, small businesses and nonprofit organizations thrive. It is an honor to serve as mayor of the nation’s fourth-largest and most diverse city. We can do our part to keep Dr. King’s dream alive.”

-Mayor Sylvester Turner

“This is a powerful theme that means to me that we have a collective responsibility to reach back to our communities to fight against injustice. We all stand on the shoulders of those like Dr. King and others that paved the way for our freedoms and its imperative that we do our part as well.”

-State Rep. Ron Reynolds

“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘beloved community mindset’ was a call to action for each of us to work toward a community where everyone is cared for and everyone has access to opportunity. In my work on Harris County Commissioners Court, I am guided each day by Dr. King’s legacy and a belief that we are all tasked to defend what’s been won by those who fought and sacrificed before us while pushing forward toward freedom and equality for all. Dr. King believed that economic justice was key to people being able to live freely and equally beside one another. That’s why economic equity is at the heart of the work being done to create a more just, inclusive and prosperous Harris County. The county is making needed investments to bridge the economic divide and level the playing field with opportunities and services that put the American dream within reach. Now imagine what would be possible if representatives at every level of government adopted the ‘beloved community mindset.’”

-County Commissioner Rodney Ellis

“I believe it’s important that we serve where we live. Communities thrive when members engage with each other and their local government. We must work together to protect our communities and ensure residents have opportunities for employment, attainable housing, and the ability for their voices to be heard.”

-Martha Castex Tatum, Mayor Pro Tem.