Jan. 18, 2021, marks the 26th anniversary of the MLK Day of Service, held nationwide to observe and celebrate the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy. The iconic civil rights leader would have been 92 this year. King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, GA.
After tremendous activist campaigning over a period of 32 years, King’s birthday was enacted by Congress and signed into law by Pres. Ronald Reagan as a federal holiday in1983. Establishing the MLK holiday was a hotly contested objective with many legislative sponsors often experiencing death threats and property damage.
After a vicious backlash over a three-year period, the lone Black elected official in Utah, state Sen. Terry L. Williams (my brother) was joined by Coretta Scott King, the great dame of the Civil Rights movement, in Utah’s ultimately successful struggle to ensure the state holiday law passed in 1986.
This paved the way for the state of Arizona, influenced by Utah’s action, to complete the 50-state membership of establishing the holiday honoring Dr. King’s legacy in 1993. Various nationwide amendments and name changes for the holiday were finally concluded in 2000.
The MLK Day of Service has been designated as “a day on, not a day off” to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. Because of the coronavirus, the city of Oakland extended the service to 40 days instead of one and instead of groups, to work as individuals or families.
Here in Oakland, Khariyyah Shabazz, deputy executive director of the Higher Ground Neighborhood Development Corporation (HGNDC), and Executive Director Amber Blackwell will mobilize dozens of volunteers to clean up areas in East Oakland.
“This will be the 10th year that we have mobilized teams of volunteers to work cleaning neighborhoods throughout Oakland,” said Blackwell. “Registration begins at 8:00 a.m. and our closing ceremonies will be at 1:00 p.m. Volunteers will be assigned to work in teams to perform specific tasks in the cleanup efforts.”
“Projects targeted for HGNDC this year will focus on areas around 10495 Edes Ave. in East Oakland. On this day, we plan to complete five service projects which will include: the Edes Avenue Beautification, Brookfield Elementary School cleanup, Greenway Maintenance, Tyrone Carney Park cleanup, and a food giveaway,” said Blackwell.
“We will also do senior cleaning where we will go into the backyards of seniors and eradiate debris from their property, removing items they have set out to be dumped. Each project will only last two hours depending on how much work there is to be done at each station. There will be a capacity of 10 people per group and we will enforce all CDC guidelines for the entire event.”
“Our plan will be to work in two groups with the first group arriving at 8:30 a.m. for signups. The second group will arrive at 11:00 a.m. for signups. We are asking that volunteers choose only one group to work with. A light snack and lunch will be provided for the volunteers.”
The mission of Higher Ground’s afterschool program is to provide a safe and nurturing space where students are given both the tools and access necessary to be successful in the academic arena, while exposing them and their families to varied cultural, artistic and fitness experiences that build resiliency and develop happy, well-rounded and successful people.
For more information on how you can help with activities during this year’s MLK Day of Service, call 510.230.5120 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers are asked to register via the website, or can show up on day of event and receive assignments.