Change Notes: Reflections on MLK Day

Jan 16, 2012

Change Notes


This weekend, I joined with millions of Americans to reflect and act upon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words and life. Points of Light worked in partnership and galvanized more than 250,000 people in service projects and forums for conversation about Dr. King’s legacy and his vision of a “beloved community” on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.

We have seen terrific response to Points of Light’s initiative to create a self-organized movement of individuals and groups coming together to celebrate Dr. King through America’s Sunday Suppers. People from diverse backgrounds came together to share a meal, watch thought-provoking films, discuss issues such as hunger, poverty and homelessness that families and veterans are facing today, and be inspired to take action.

One example of an extraordinary partnership is with the sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha (Coretta Scott King’s sorority). Each of the sorority’s more than 950 chapters hosted Sunday Suppers and service projects to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King. More than 20,000 participated in dinner, a documentary movie, meaningful discussion and service projects. The sorority also engaged 5,000 middle school girls participating in its Emerging Young Leaders program in service projects focused on human rights and creating equal opportunities for all Americans.

Michelle Nunn Sunday SupperI gathered a diverse group of Atlanta friends and leaders around my own dining table on Sunday. We broke bread and talked about the bright spots and challenges in our community in terms of race, class and the unfulfilled dimensions of Dr. King’s dream. We talked about how Dr. King’s nonviolent and creative dissent continues to animate our world – from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street.

We reflected upon how both relevant and near Dr. King remains to us. One of our participants, journalist Maria Saporta, shared her personal story of being a grade school friend of Yolanda King and her sleepovers with the King family. Maria recalled partnering with Dr. King to wash the King family dishes. She shared her memories of his enormous personal magnetism alongside of his ability to respectfully engage her in conversation as an 11-year-old child. Dr. King’s life and message is still very close at hand and closer still, when we join together in service and social action.

Today, on MLK Day, we are seeing continued growth in the number of participants.

  • HandsOn Network, Points of Light’s network of local volunteer action centers, engaged more than 14,600 volunteers through 24 affiliates and partners organizing more than 320 projects. Additional projects will take place in all 50 states, including weatherizing homes, beautifying schools, serving meals and supporting veterans and military families. Many organizations use the day as a springboard for year-round service, such as signing up mentors and tutors for at-risk youth.
  • Points of Light awarded six grants to organizations throughout the country to mobilize more than 185,000 volunteers and impact more than 500,000 people.
  • Our youth activation enterprise, generationOn, hosted Grow Involved! at  PS 57 in East Harlem where 600 kids, families and community groups viewed an excerpt from “Whatever it Takes” by Christopher Wong, then broke into small groups to discuss the film and participate in a hands-on service project. More than 20,000 students, parents and teacher also gained access to Grow Involved! toolkits to expand service-learning opportunities.
  • AmeriCorps Alums, Points of Light’s national network for all AmeriCorps national service alumni, brought together service leaders at chapters across the country to mobilize 1,000 in Sunday Suppers.
  • Points of Light’s Corporate Institute, which enables companies to engage their employees and customers in service, provided tools to help employers recognize MLK Day both in their offices and at off-site service projects.

Delta VolunteersEarlier today, I joined hands with Delta employees and volunteers in Atlanta to make 6,000 lunches to be distributed by Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless. I worked hand in hand with my 9-year-old son, Vinson. When talking about his role, Vinson recounted having personally put together “thousands” of lunches for people in Atlanta who are homeless on this day. And, indeed, Vinson, working together with hundreds of others, did feed thousands and these efforts rippled out across the country in real and meaningful ways to fortify and inspire us to integrate Dr. King’s undone work in our own life’s work in the coming year.

Yours in service,

Michelle Nunn

CEO, Points of Light

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