Guest blog: Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy through service

by Rachel Clark

By Ronni Nelson, a My Brother’s Keeper VISTA working to increase access to high-quality educational, enrichment and mentoring opportunities for young men of color.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the day set aside to commemorate one of our most revered civil rights leaders and activists, is also a day that we should strive to live out the values of justice, peace, and service that he believed in so deeply and manifested so profoundly.

Each year, the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC) AmeriCorps program and Emerald Youth Foundation coordinate a joint MLK Day of Service project to serve the local community in honor of this day. For this year’s Day of Service, approximately 60 AmeriCorps and community members, including myself, spent this past Saturday volunteering at Lonsdale Elementary School to work on a variety of beautification projects. Service projects included community cleanup with several litter street teams, landscaping work around the school, and organizing some outdoor and indoor storage spaces.

My group worked to organize the school’s basement, a task that seemed daunting at first sight, but our efforts resulted in a much more organized and usable space.  The litter street teams worked diligently to remove more than 75 bags of trash from the surrounding area. After a morning of hard work, the volunteers refueled with some well-earned pizza and learned a bit more about the diverse school and community they had served, including background on Lonsdale’s very multicultural community—most of the school’s student population is composed of Guatemalan and Honduran immigrants and African refugees.

As a My Brother’s Keeper VISTA working toward closing the racial achievement gap in reading proficiency, it was so meaningful to me to honor one of our greatest champions of racial justice at an elementary school that exemplifies the type of interracial and intercultural community to which Dr. King dedicated his life. In one of his last sermons, Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed the hope that someone would say he had spent his life trying “to love and serve humanity.” Let us all continue working towards his dream of a united nation by continuing to serve our local communities throughout the rest of the year as well. 

© 2013 Afterschool Alliance