MLK Day of service part 1: the parade

6 Feb

Here in DC our day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began early.  We gathered in Southeast, layered in wool socks, long underwear, and our new Public Allies hoodies and prepared to take part in a local tradition: the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday parade.

Though the parade is a long-standing tradition — dating back to before the third Monday in January had even been designated a day of memorial for the late Dr. King — it has not always been held on MLK day, and some years it was not held at all.  An article in the Washington Post perfectly captured the atmosphere that morning, a mixture of reverence for the legacy of a hero and a sense of unity in celebrating the homecoming of a beloved tradition.

I could sense it, too, as my fellow allies and I walked the parade route, which traced Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue from St. Elizabeth’s hospital to Leckie Elementary School.  Everyone, from the hundreds of people that lined the parade route to the many groups who had patiently lined up hours in advance in the frigid weather hoping to honor Dr. King’s memory in their own way.  I was struck by the sheer number of participants in the parade.  We marched right between a local small business that organizes birthday parties and a group of students from Sasha Bruce Youthwork who were gaining some service hours by marching.  There were marching bands, drum corps, cheerleaders of all ages, traditional Bolivian dancers, and, of course Public Allies DC.

The experience wasn’t perfect.  It was a cold day and our brand new sweatshirts, though incredibly stylish, were not the warmest form of outerwear.  But, after a little reflection, I remembered an anecdote that Dr. King told after his 1965 march from Selma, Alabama to the capitol in Montgomery.  He recalled a 71-year-old woman who, during the Montgomery bus boycott refused a ride:

one day, she was asked while walking if she didn’t want to ride. And when she answered, “No,” the person said, “Well, aren’t you tired?” And with her ungrammatical profundity, she said, “My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.”  And in a real sense this afternoon, we can say that our feet are tired, but our souls are rested.

Granted, Dr. King marched 54 miles over 5 days, while we only walked 2 miles.  But the sentiment is definitely valuable, both for me reflecting on my experiences on MLK Day, and for all of us who experience setback.  That morning my feet were tired, but through walking in the parade, being a part of such a powerful tradition, and realizing that my presence was felt, I hope that my soul got a little rest.  Since then, I have tried to approach my work in a way that, even when my figurative feet metaphorically hurt, I keep my rested soul in mind.  My Public Allies experience has and continues to empower me to do work that I am truly passionate about, and that has to mean my soul (if not my body) is resting well.

Are you curious about how Public Allies DC spent the afternoon? Stay tuned for part 2 of my reflection on this years MLK Day of Service. 


One Response to “MLK Day of service part 1: the parade”


  1. MLK Day of Service Part II: The Discussion | Ally Snapshots - February 7, 2012

    […] MLK Day of Service Part II: The Discussion Posted on February 7, 2012 by Ariel If you want to read about how Public Allies DC spent the morning of our day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., check out my previous blog entry. […]

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