The Jackson Servant Leadership Corps (JSLC) is an ecumenical service and leadership development program employing young adults for 12 months of community service, leadership training, and spiritual growth. Corps members share a residence in the inner city of Jackson, MS, and work full-time for non-profit agencies serving Jackson’s inner city. There is one full-time staff member, the director for the JSLC.
One of the many projects in which we have sponsored for the last three years is the Martin Luther King Day of Service. The event brought together approximately 26 religious and non-religious youth organizations for what is called “A Day On, Not A Day Off!” The project involved more than 500 teenagers of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. In an intentional diverse environment, students came together for the purpose of observing MLK Day and experiencing the most joyful sacraments called reconciliation and service. The project was funded by the Corporation for National Service with an award of $3,300 and several other businesses.
The community’s needs and social problems that were addressed by the project include housing development, homelessness, neighborhood beautification, education, youth development and leadership training, and racism. The innovative approach used to address these social problems was to intentionally place teens in work groups which were racially diverse. Service project included teens performed 25 different service projects ranging from landscaping, painting, and rebuilding playgrounds to demolishing dilapidated houses, cleaning senior’s homes and feeding the homeless.
Though the MLK project is a once a year activity, the JSLC encourage teens to stay connected with the organization in which they served or to serve through other agencies. The servant leaders however, who have committed a year to JSLC, recruit volunteers throughout the year to serve at their agencies for the purpose of mobilizing the volunteers to continue serving an investing in the community.
The MLK Day of Service was made into a two-day event. On January 16, 2000, there was a pre-rally celebration to promote racial reconciliation and set a forum for discussion on several topics surrounding race in America. It was also a time for teenagers to meet the team in which they will serve with on the actual work day. The goal of the Pre Rally was to provide a setting conducive to racial reconciliation and a place where interracial friendships can be made. On MLK Day, January 17th, various acts of kindness were performed to coincide with the theme of “Martin Luther King Day of Service: A Day On, Not A Day Off.” Teenagers and volunteer met at Gallaway Methodist Church for the opening rally, where footage of Dr. King’s speeches and the civil rights movement were shown. The event was then followed with an address from a staff member of the Perkins Foundation, on the subject “God’s One Item Agenda-Reconciliation.”
Teens gathered with their teams of diversity and served together. Work sites included Operation ShoeString, Perkins Foundation, Voice of Calvary Ministries, and a host of others. The MLK Day ended with a rally closing the memorable and impacting day.