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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Martin Luther King’s Birthday Is Not A Day Off But A Day Of Service For This West Side Nonprofit

The celebration hosted by BUILD will reflect on the power of civil disobedience and the importance of service in improving communities.

The MLK Day of Service will be an inter-generational celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy.
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AUSTIN— As the Rev. Martin Luther King Day approaches, many look forward to the day off to rest and recharge. But others see it as not a day off, but a day on to honor the memory of King’s work and service.

On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, BUILD will bring together Austin residents to follow in King’s legacy of community building, nonviolent protest, and aspiring to a brighter future with a West Side Day of Service.

At the start of the day, participants in BUILD (which stands for Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development) will meet at the Austin headquarters of the youth development organization at 5100 W. Harrison St.

There, they will be able to learn about King and his methods of nonviolent protest to bring attention to the violence and injustice faced by people of color in America. Then the youth will reenact the March on Washington, one of the largest political demonstrations in history, by marching in solidarity with those still fighting for peace and justice across the world. 

Credit: Courtesy Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church
The Rev. Martin Luther King speaks at Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church in 1966.

The march will take young people to Christ the King Jesuit College Prep, 5088 W. Jackson Blvd. where the Day of Service will have its opening ceremony. At the ceremony, young people will share their vision for justice, equity and social change in a series of speeches dubbed “I Have A Dream Too.”

“They’ve chosen social injustices or things that are bothering them or making them feel unsafe in their communities. And they’re basically talking about their dream for making it better and like a call to action to people, no matter how great or small, this is what you can possibly do to get involved,” said Ebonee Porché, BUILD’s manager of education and support services who helped organize the event.

After the youth speeches, attendees will have an opportunity to hear from the older generation that personally experienced the Civil Rights movement and could see first hand the type of impact King had on the lives of black folks across the country.

 “Our world looks different from the world of some of our seniors. We want to make sure that different people are at the table talking about those different experiences,” Porché said.

After the speeches, people will be able to participate in the event’s activities and service projects.

At one station, participants will simulate a sit-in to learn about how difficult civil disobedience was for people fighting to move the needle on discriminatory policies. Other stations will have bingo, podcasting and an intergenerational paint and sip, all oriented around King’s legacy of service and community.

At the service stations, folks will have an opportunity to give back and reflect on things that are often taken for granted. Participants will assemble menstrual kits including pads and tampons, items that are necessities for feminine health that low-income people often lack access to.

They will also assemble blessing bags filled with toiletries and other goodies, warming kits with winter wardrobe essentials, and messages of kindness to spread words of hope.

“Sometimes you don’t have a lot to give. And that’s okay. Still, come out and be a blessing to somebody else. … It’s definitely something to celebrate,” Porché said.

The opening ceremony for the Day of Service begins at 9:30 a.m. Monday at Christ The King Jesuit College Prep, 5088 W. Jackson Blvd.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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