On what would have been the late civil rights icon’s 93rd birthday, Martin Luther King Jr.’s 13-year-old granddaughter Yolanda Renee King proudly stood in his place, speaking out to a crowd of supporters and actively calling for all of us to continue the work her grandfather started.
Maya Eaglin of NBC News reported that “the granddaughter of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, is using her voice this MLK Day to call attention to the importance of voting rights and why younger generations should be involved with the fight.”
In an interview with NBC News, King said, “My family and I have been working on getting two major bills passed that can make it easier for people to vote because one of the fundamental rights is the right to vote. Everybody needs to have access to voting.”
That drive to protect people’s rights and promote activism in her community came early for King, she recalled.
“There are even times my parents have told me about that I don’t even remember … for instance, every day, we would drive to school, and we would see homeless people,” she said. “When I was 3 or 4, I was already talking about them and asking, ‘What are we going to do to help?’”
Learning about her influential family has only helped solidify that energy.
“Throughout my life, my parents have told me that ‘your family has done some really phenomenal work,’” King told Eaglin. “[They said] ‘you are the granddaughter of really phenomenal people who changed this country and the world.’ I didn’t really understand the significance of it until I got older.”
Reflecting on the importance of the holiday celebrating her grandfather and his life — which became a federal holiday in 1986 — King added: “MLK Day is not a day off. It should be treated as a day on. It’s a day of service. I think that instead of idolizing my grandfather, pick a service project and do something to help the community. It could be something as simple as picking up trash around your neighborhood park.”
Following her public appearances on MLK Day itself, King will spend the following Tuesday, Jan. 18, away from the classroom and speaking at Washington’s National Cathedral, again calling on individuals around the country and specifically politicians in D.C. itself to support the ongoing battle for voter rights and protection.
“You have to go out and support those movements,” King said. “Although you may not be old enough to vote, you are the future. You and your decisions determine the future of the world.”