Tag Archives: MLK Day

United in Service

30 Jan


“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On Saturday, January 19th, the city of Washington came together to honor Dr. King. Public Allies led a day of service, bringing together 250 volunteers from a variety of backgrounds. Our community that day included 125 Public Allies staff and corps members from Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Washington, DC. We were joined by over 100 high school students and teachers from Anacostia and Friendship Collegiate Academy. Our special guests for the day included Chelsea Clinton, chair of Inaugural National Day of Service, Paul Schmitz, CEO of Public Allies, Senator Harris Wofford and Bill Basil, current AmeriCorps Director.

The day was divided into three units: Let’s Serve, Let’s Move, and Let’s Lead. In the Let’s Move station, Playworks corps members invited teenagers and adults to embrace the benefits of exercise, swirling hula hoops and running around the gym. In the Let’s Lead room, allies facilitated a discussion on the legacy of Dr. King, brainstorming how his teachings can shape our lives. The Let’s Serve unit focused on a number of hands-on projects, ranging from a mural painting to a food drive.

My team had just entered the Let’s Serve station, located in the school’s cafeteria, when Chelsea Clinton arrived. We gathered around the lunch tables as she gave an inspirational speech about how her upbringing emphasized the importance of community service. Her father, former President Bill Clinton, established AmeriCorps under the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. After sharing her personal story with us, Ms. Clinton said that she was eager to lend a hand. She joined our group, helping to put together 600 bags of food for Bread for the City. Beans, noodles, and tuna fish were passed along an assembly line as we all joked and chatted, getting to know one another. The high school students on our team opened up, confiding in the former first daughter their goals and aspirations for the future. Several stated that they wanted to join AmeriCorps, others wanted to go to college or to join the military. All seemed encouraged by the message of the day: “We Still Have the Dream.” In other words, we, as a community, will support you as you pursue your dream.


In my experience as a recent transplant to our nation’s capital, DC remains segregated by ward, class, and ethnicity. There’s Congress, and then there’s Congress Heights. Living here, it often feels as though there are multiple cities, intersecting only at crowded metro stations as strangers impolitely bump against each other in an attempt to quickly get out of the tunnels. Through events like the National Day of Service, Public Allies connects people from different worlds. For four hours on a Saturday morning, we were united by the idea that we all have the power to be change agents in our communities. But the effort has to reach beyond one day of action. I plan to continue working to bridge the gaps in DC, and I hope that you will join me.

As Dr. King argued, “we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

For more pictures of the day, check out the Public Allies Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/publicallies/sets/72157632576862845/


Celebrating MLK day the Chicago way!

14 Feb

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” ~
Imagine by John Lennon

This year for Martin Luther King, Jr Day, Public Allies Chicago had five separate events. Four of the events served as a kick-off for the different Team Service Projects that PAChicago has.

Celebrating Diversity in Evanston 

Second year Allies assisted Y.O.U. Evanston with their “Diverse Evanston Walks United” (DEWU) event at the Music Institute of Chicago. The portion DEWU the second years helped with featured guest speakers, youth performers, and a live portait artist. The second years primarily assisted with set-up, break down, and running of the event. Here are a couple photos from their event:

Tom and Jessica chair set up      Crowd       YOU Evanston

Safe Sex Packet Distribution

The A-Team and their partner organization Illinois Caucus of Adolescent Health (ICAH) put together 700 packets of safe sex information and distributed them to some of Chicago’s highest STI rate areas. The A-Team will be building a teen sexual health curriculum with ICAH. Here are Team A members Aisha and Ruben tell you about their MLK Day endeavors:

Celebrating Peace by Creating Ideal Communities

Team New Edition kicks off their team service project with the Peace School by working with a small group of Chicago Public School students. Their day featured Meditation and group activities.

Group activity



Peace Activity 1

Group Activity 2

The purpose: help to promote the group’s focus on building ideal and peaceful communities within Chicago in two Community Colleges of Chicago. Here is a photo of Team New Edition and their participants:
Team New Edition and participants

Bringing Justice the Food Way

Team New Adults on the Block and their partner organization Empowerment through Education and Exposure (EEE) provided meals for 60 women who are currently homeless at Breakthrough Urban Ministries. They spent the morning preparing the meals, helped with serving, and then conversed with some of the women there. Here are some photos from their day:

Food Prep 1 Food prep Food Prep 3 Serving 4

Save the Best for Last, Eyes on Youth Homelessness

My TSP, Group Z, and our partner organization Alternatives, Inc. kicked off their storytelling and youth homelessness project with a clothing drive, art activities, and a round table discussion about youth homelessness. Here are a few photos from our service day:

Alternatives front door       photo (11) Group Z creating MLK Day sign    photo (8)photo (5)

photo (1)   photo

To see the rest of the photos from the MLK Day events, please visit the Public Allies Chicago Facebook page.

MLK Day of Service Part II: The Discussion

7 Feb

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.

After our morning spent marching  parade, we transitioned from the frigid outdoors into the Salvation Army building in historic Anacostia to host a film screening and community discussion.  The event brought filmmakers together with allies in an ally-facilitated discussion of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy in communities around the country.

The film, called the MLK Streets project, is a collaboration between local filmmakers and DC Public High School students.  Together, they traveled around the country to over a dozen different streets named for Dr. King and interviews people about what life is like in that neighborhood.  The project was inspired by a very famous Chris Rock bit, in which he  notes the irony in the fact that streets named after Dr. King are often marked by violence:

You know what’s wild? Martin Luther King stood for nonviolence. Now what’s Martin Luther King? A street. And I don’t give a [expletive] where you at in America, if you on Martin Luther King Boulevard, there’s some violence going down.

Despite the fact that Rock makes light of this pattern, the filmmakers were interested in the grain of truth behind the joke.  There are hundreds of streets in America named after Dr. King and nearly all of them run through black communities overrun by poverty and violence.  Why is it, then, that the namesake streets of a man who dedicated his life to peace and alleviation of poverty never reflect his vision for a brighter future?

After viewing the film, a group of allies initiated discussion with special guests, including co-producers of the film and one of my fellow allies who talked about attending school just off of DC’s Martin Luther King Avenue.

Servant leadership

2 Feb

The Eagle Rock School philosophy can be summarized by what we called 8 + 5 =10.  It goes something like this:

Eight Themes              Plus                    Five Expectations

Individual Integrity                                      Developing an expanding knowledge base
Intellectual Discipline                                 Communicating effectively
Physical Fitness                                         Creating and making healthy life choices
Spiritual Development                               Participating as an engaged global citizen
Aesthetic Expression                                 Providing leadership for justice
Service to Others
Cross-cultural Understanding
Democratic Governance
Environmental Stewardship

Equals Ten Commitments

Live in respectful harmony with others
Develop mind, body, and spirit
Learn to communicate in speech and writing
Serve the Eagle Rock and other communities
Become a steward of the planet
Make healthy personal choices
Find, nurture and develop the artist within
Increase capacity to exercise leadership for justice
Practice citizenship and democratic living
Devise an enduring moral and ethical code

New students are quizzed on 8+5=10 when they come to Eagle Rock. All classes at Eagle Rock Rock are also categorized under the 5 expectations. Within the mission of Eagle Rock is to develop leaders who will use their education to change the world. Two days of the first week of the trimester are devoted to Eagle Serve. During these two days students and staff commit to projects either on campus or out in the community. Last September, students went to Rock Mountain National Park and cleared rocks and pebbles from trails to preserve the habitat of the Tundra.

Eagle Rock students performing service at Rocky Mountain National Park on 9/22/11. Photo taken by Public Allies fellow Tyler Bevington.

This trimester we focused on service on campus. Students cleaned buildings on campus, participated in peer mentor trainings, cleared trails on campus, and the Eagle Rock chapter of Peace Jam planned events for the trimester.  Through these activities on campus, students engage in various facets of the 8+5=10 philosophy. Through service at Eagle Rock we work to develop leaders who see leadership as a collaborative effort. Service is also not just limited to those two days of the trimester. Eagle Rock offers many service-learning courses, where students have opportunities not only to perform service, but also reflect on the larger importance of service in society. I think this is an aim that the Public Allies programs has as well – to develop leaders who see service as a way of life.  So as you read stories of service on Martin Luther King Day, it is important to also remember that he lived service everyday, and we can as well.

Martin Luther King Day of Service

2 Feb

At Our Piece of the Pie (OPP), the main job of the Public Ally in my position each year is to coordinate Global Youth Service Day in Hartford, Connecticut. In early December, OPP received a grant from Youth Service America to be a Lead Organizer for Martin Luther King Day of Service. As a result, I was given the exciting opportunity to plan, organize, support, and track MLK Day of Service activities all over Connecticut. This added responsibility transformed December and January into demanding and hectic months, but the effort was well worth it!

Our Piece of the Pie partnered with Hands on Hartford and the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence to put together service projects and a Peace Vigil in Hartford over MLK Day Weekend. OPP’s AmeriCorps VISTAs and I reached out to non-profit organizations and schools planning MLK Day of Service activities all over the state (mostly focused in the Hartford-New Haven-Waterbury area) and put together a volunteer tracking system.  Through the Youth Service America grant, Our Piece of the Pie was able to support eleven MLK Day of Service projects organized by other Connecticut non-profits with $100 – $200 mini-grants.

For the MLK Day Weekend, Our Piece of the Pie reported over 1600 volunteers at 57 different service projects in over 20 different zip codes! The Beloved Community Peace Vigil planned by Our Piece of the Pie, Hands On Hartford, and CT Center for Nonviolence was covered in the Hartford Courant (pictures!).

We’re all connected in our work towards a Beloved Community! Here is a picture from Northwestern AHEC’s MLK Day (organized by Public Ally Jennifer Sweat!):Image

Since working with my AmeriCorps team last year to plan an MLK Day of Service and participating in multiple trainings and workshops on Kingian Nonviolence, I’ve become very interested in and influenced by Dr. King’s teachings. You may remember that some Connecticut Public Allies and I visited the MLK Memorial back in November. For my mid-year Presentation of Learning with Public Allies (which will be elaborated on in my next blog post), I used quotes from my favorite movies, songs, MLK speeches, and a quote from MLK’s D.C. memorial neighbor: FDR.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of Dr. King’s passages that I used in my mid-year Presentation of Learning:

“You may even give your goods to feed the poor; you may bestow great gifts to charity; and you may tower high in philanthropy; but if you have not love, your charity means nothing.”

Any thoughts on this quote?

Philip Drew – Hartford, CT

Serve every day

1 Feb

Last year as an AmeriCorps member, I learned this phrase: “Make MLK Day a day ON, not a day off.”

This year brought an even better one: “Serve every day, not just on MLK Day.”  It’s easy to volunteer when a whole day is dedicated to just that purpose.  There’s an incredible sense of community that happens on these days.  However, speakers at the Saint Paul Central High School/Concordia University MLK Day Rally challenged us all to remember that service should be a continuous thing.  Even though I’m a Public Ally, where service is at the core of what we do, I know I can serve more, do more, and help others get excited about serving every day.


Above: Sonya, Tatyana, and Kristian before the MLK Presentation!


1/5 of the Public Allies Twin Cities group join in the peace march to Concordia University


At the Boys & Girls Club, we had the chance to connet with youth over checkers, foosball, pool, Guitar Hero, and Just Dance.  Above, Richard and Holly teach a few kids how to play checkers.  Below, foosball starts to get intense!


After some play time, we got to join in the Boys & Girls Club Annual MLK Day “Honk for Peace” challenge!  The kids made signs and counted up how many honks they could get in the name of peace.  This year they got 111!



How will you remember to serve every day?

Footprints… but not the carbon kind.

31 Jan

Hi all,

So this past January 16th, members of the Public Allies Connecticut community (including alumni, friends, and family) conducted a Service Day in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Volunteers were assigned to one of four projects, all focused on conservation and environmental stewardship:

1. Working with clients of Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS) of New Haven, educating on energy usage

2.Working with the Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven, conducting home beautification efforts

3. Working with the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, engaging local youth in creation of seedbombs (For more info about seedbombs, check out 2.0 Ally Veronica Swain’s blog post here about her work during the service day!)

4. And my assignment- Working with the City of New Haven’s Office of Sustainability, distributing information about the city’s new single- stream recycling and no- cost home energy audit initiatives.  My friends Rachel and Jesse joined myself and Allies Samantha, Melissa and Al in a small group for our assignment.  We were armed with leaflets about the two services and asked to go door-to-door explaining the services to New Haven residents.

I’ll admit, it wasn’t my favorite assignment.  The biting cold, lack of sunshine in the building’s shadows, and the daunting map of neighborhoods we were to cover on foot were enough to dampen my enthusiasm.  Furthermore, few people were home so there was minimal interaction with others.

But wonder of wonders, debrief/ closing circle (a Public Allies tradition) was what put the Day of Service back in perspective for me.  Discussing the tangible effects of our efforts, personal interactions with those served, and the types of legacies we’d like to leave behind reminded me that we conduct service for the benefit of the greater community.  It’s not about us.  It’s about them.

I like to think that we left both literal and figurative footprints that day.  Or rather, we reduced carbon footprints that day.  In fact, one of our program managers reported that the Office of Sustainability had received sixteen energy audit requests just three days after our service day!  I love being part of Public Allies and having the opportunity to engage in such service experiences.  More in the future!

P.S. Check out this TED talk we were given as prep work for the service day.  It’s Majora Carter, and titled Greening the Ghetto: Tales of Urban Renewal.