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National Day of Service volunteers at Sasha Bruce House gathered for a discussion on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
As volunteers gathered for lunch at the Sash Bruce House this past Saturday, breaking from their painting and scrubbing during the National Day of Service, they filled the recreation room for a discussion on the legacy of Dr. King. Discussion was led by Kenneth Walker, Director of our Workforce Development program, Youthbuild
Before Walker took the floor, Danielle Jennings, a former client of SBY’s and resident of Bruce House, shared her story with the volunteers and expressed her feelings on the day’s nationalized purpose—service.
Jennings believes the current times present “a challenge to [her,] and it gets bigger and bigger.” She continued, “I consider Bruce House my extended family. These days, young people are doing crazy things, and we all need each other. We need something that acknowledges ‘you’re my brother; you’re my sister.’” To get our kids a better community and a better future, said Jennings, we need to “change our mindset about being family.”
Walker then quickly made explicit the mindset that implicitly pervaded the entire day thus far.
“In this room,” he said, “we have the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.” He quoted Dr. King: “‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what can you do for others?’” Service day is in reality “more than one day a year,” he said. Dr. King was given a legislated national holiday in 1983 “to empower us.”
Speaking to the question ‘what does Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy mean for us in our communities?’, the racially and age-diverse crowd produced a myriad of analyses, encouragements, facts, and anecdotes:
“This Day of Service is not the culmination but a catalyst.”
“To further Dr. King’s legacy is to see people and say ‘I am you and you are me.’”
“Speak truth to power; when you see the news and it enrages you, write a letter to your politicians and to the editor, and put your name on it. For every one letter to an editor there are one thousand letters unwritten.”
“Mayor [of Newark] Cory Booker’s commencement speeches [give us] a personal responsibility to be present.”
“There’s the circumscribed ‘what we’re supposed to do.’ But me, how do I perpetuate positive communities? How do I teach not just individual but collective responsibility?”
“Every step forward you take, reach back and pull someone up with you.”
“I choose joy.”
“Give young people a [paint]brush too.”
“We have to engage people with whom we disagree to get them involved. We can center it around the kids, as our president has said.”
“If MLK were alive today, I sometimes think, he would be in jail. That is where an honorable person is in our system with its injustices. It’s just not acceptable. But he expanded our consciousness of what we can do.”
As the discussion ended, the refreshed volunteers started their second shift of service, painting and cleaning the Bruce House along with some newly arrived workers.
Sasha Bruce Youthwork thanks all those involved in making the National Day of Service a meaningful and enlightening experience. May all people commit to service in such inspiring and helpful ways in the future.