MLK Day Events Call for Day of Service
By Dianne Anderson
Martin Luther King, Jr National Day of Service on-site events have canceled out as Omicron picks up speed, but local nonprofits are determined to mask and glove up for the community to honor the slain civil rights leader in all he represents.
In the Inland Empire, local activist Trudy Coleman said that her 21st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday Unity Breakfast & Tribute said their event is still on. Under the theme, “Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat To Justice Everywhere,” the event is slated for Monday, January 17 at the Ontario Doubletree Hotel, located at 222 N Vineyard Ave. Breakfast and Tribute start at 8:30 to 1:00 p.m. Tickets are $40.
Ms. Coleman, founder and CEO of Juneteenth Education Technology Mobile Arts Center, said since starting her journey in the late 1980s to increase awareness of Juneteenth, she doesn’t feel that much has changed. In some ways, racism and injustice may not be as visible as back in Dr. King’s day, but she said the outcome is indisputable.
“King’s life was about injustice, inequity and freedom. We’re still fighting for that. There are still injustices. The model is still the same, it’s embedded,” she said. “Kids aren’t born racists, they are taught this racism [from lingering] Jim Crow.”
The pandemic has underscored a nation divided between the haves and have-nots, but she feels that grassroots efforts over the decades like her own have helped groups like Black Lives Matter gain a foothold for social policy change.
Coleman, along with John Hopkins, the co-founder of the Pomona Juneteenth Festival, and the late Dr. Ronald Myers, chairman and founder of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, started the grassroots movement to acknowledge Juneteenth as a national holiday.
Today, she feels the freedom it stands for is on shaky ground.
“Everybody is trying to cross the border to America, but the atrocity is that the ones here that have built America are all here and we’re still struggling to find our place in society, economically,” she said.
For decades, Leadership Long Beach has held its annual MLK volunteer event, and will also host several ways for the community to safely participate this year.
Sean Deveraux is inviting volunteers to their online campaign to support the elderly again, especially as COVID restrictions have seniors frequently sitting at home alone in facilities.
“There was so much wonderful feedback we got from the Silver Letter writing program last year for folks that don’t have any family members left. They receive a wonderful note in the mail. We’re bringing that back,” said Devereaux, executive director at Leadership Long Beach
The program also has multiple ways to connect the community youth and adults in programs year-round. Volunteers do not require background or training, but they can make a huge impact on neighborhoods with cleanups and outreach to the homeless.
“They’ll be a supply drive for hygiene supplies to distribute to nonprofits who provide services to the homeless, among a myriad of things,” he said.
This year, like last year on MLK Day, their programming was mostly on lockdown, but he is holding out hope that after the pandemic, they will see another boom year again like 2019.
“That’s our largest ever Martin Luther King Day of Service turnout. We had close to 1,000 volunteers participating in service projects through Long Beach,” he said.
Since forming in 1989, there are over 1,800 strongly active Leadership Long Beach alumni. He said the program was the starting point for many of the city’s current local leaders.
“Our alums are involved in pretty much every industry that you can imagine, nonprofit to business sectors, in very high level capacities. If there’s anything you want to get done in the city, chances are you are working with folks who are alums of Leadership Long Beach.”
Addressing poverty and hunger was another major part of Dr. King’s mission. Dr. King, along with Southern Christian Leadership Conference, mobilized the nation over 50 years ago around the Poor Peoples Campaign. King was assassinated four months later.
This MLK holiday, Mark Lowry is appealing for more help as many volunteers have called in to cancel their commitment because of COVID.
“We will be most thankful for those volunteers who take a day on, and not a day off by dedicating a few hours of their time on Monday, January 17 to perform some community service and really respecting the way Dr. King dedicated his life,” said Lowry, Orange County Food Bank Program Director.
Volunteers will continue to maintain social distancing, wear masks, and will be providing support for the most vulnerable people in Orange County who need food help every day. He emphasized the work can’t happen without the support of volunteers, who will be boxing up food for the elderly.
The food bank distributes about 23 million pounds of food each year, serving about one-half million families monthly.
On MLK Day, volunteers can also expect a little backgrounder about how the food bank project got started, along with an orientation about Dr. King, who seems to be a mystery for many of the younger generation.
Now in its 22nd year of hosting the MLK volunteer event, he recalls the time that he and Bobby McDonald, president and executive director of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Orange County, went to a local high school in Santa Ana when the King holiday was first recognized.
“Bobby asked, ‘Before we start, tell us what you know about King. One girl raised her hand and said he started that religion, referring to Martin Luther of the 1560s. Another girl said that he freed the slaves,” Lowry said. “It’s all ancient history. That was the motivation for us starting the annual event was to provide a teachable moment to keep his memory alive.”
To volunteer for MLK Day in Long Beach, see http://leadershiplb.org/mlk/
To RSVP to the Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast and Tribute, see https://jetmacinc.com/
To volunteer at CAPOC Food Bank, see https://www.capoc.org/oc-food-bank/