To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the fight for civil rights in the United States, communities around the country have gathered to serve. One of his many famous quotes was the catalyst for making this day not only a national holiday, but a formal day of service: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
In the hope that today would be a day “on,” and not a day “off,” people everywhere took up the call to serve and dedicated this day to a day of work for the greater good.
1. The MLK March on Washington was held Saturday with over 2,000 people braving freezing rain. They rallied near the MLK memorial and head several speeches, featuring a powerful address by Senator Nina Turner (D-Ohio). Their purpose in marching was not to appeal to all to fight for civil rights under President-elect Trump, according to the Rev. Al Sharpton, and to demand that “the Democrats in the Senate and in the House and to the moderate Republicans to ‘Get some backbone. Get some guts.’ We didn’t send you down here to be weak-kneed.” Sabrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, spoke to the marchers, asking them to “stand up and make a difference in your community.”
2. Georgia interfaith group plants trees at King’s original burial site at the historic Southview Cemetery in South Atlanta. Georgia Interfaith Power and Light partnered with Trees Atlanta to plant native tree species in the historic cemetery, where MLK was buried before being exhumed and interred at the King Memorial in Washington.
3. Boston Cares builds educational kits for students each year and will expand its service this year to include building beds for kids who have no bed of their own. Wrangling over 750 volunteers each year, this organization is committed to building engineering kits, robotics kits, math games, and more for children who do not have access to those STEM topics in school. These tools and beds will be distributed to low-income and homeless families in Boston.
4. All across the Dallas and Fort Worth region, parades, speeches, and live performances were held in tandem with service projects to commemorate King’s legacy. Thousands gathered in Dallas alone to share in the parade, one of the largest in the nation.
5. The Oakland African-American Museum and Library will host its 11th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Film Festival. The four films being featured all cover the struggle for civil rights in the U.S.A. The films are: Black Americans Since MLK: And Still I Rise; The African American: Many Rivers to Cross; The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights; The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.
6. The Human Rights Campaign is one of many LGBTQ organizations across the country hosting a day of service for employees. This year, HRC will be focusing on work supporting and serving at-risk and homeless LGBTQ youth, who make up over 40% of homeless youth in the U.S.
7. New Orleans’s City Park and Greenway get a boost from volunteers who will be adding a fresh varnish to last year’s mural, weeding and pruning in the park, and renewing mulch around plants. Thousands of volunteers in the city of New Orleans will disperse to dozens of non-profit organizations, one of which is responsible for updating the Greenway, which provides miles of recreational pathways through the city.
8. Philadelphia’s Girard College focuses on educational justice by building “mini-libraries” across the city. Of the expected 140,000 volunteers that showed up across Philly today, 5,000 of them went to Girard to build these Free Library boxes to be installed in places where kids go with their parents (laundromats, barbershops, salons, etc.).
9. The Cleveland Orchestra held its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Concert on Sunday, bringing the audience to its feet. 2,000 people listened, for free, to rousing melodies that focused on equality and freedom. It was a night to remember, not only celebrating the life of Dr. King, but modeling equality and fellowship through art.
10. Among colleges across the country, students at High Point University in North Carolina dedicated the entire weekend to events. A parade, film screening, and oratorical competition were only a few of the many events included this weekend. Service projects offered by the university sought to give back to the local community, focusing on hunger and poverty. Several worship service and celebration opportunities were offered by local churches and on-campus religious groups.
His daughter, Bernice King, urges us all to remember that “we are not seeking to defeat and destroy people but we are really seeking to defeat injustice that’s trying to keep us all separated and realize our commonality.” she said. This call to serve is not restricted to a single day, but should be considered a lifestyle and daily approach to dismantling systems that divide and oppress.
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