Martin Luther King Day

by Joshua Stearns, SCA Board Member and Alumnus

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is just around the corner (January 15th), and in recognition of the role that Dr. King played in the health of our communities, our society, and our world at large, SCA has asked me to write some reflections on the unique intersection of community, service, civic engagement, and the environment. This is the first in a series of short essays that explore the diverse ways that Dr. King’s words, actions, and beliefs continue to inspire and instruct our work and our lives.

However, in this first installment, I want to offer a brief sampling of ways you can get involved with your community this Martin Luther King Jr. Day. When it was established, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was promoted as a “day on” not a “day off.” It was hoped that people would consider this holiday as a day of service, to get out and work together in the spirit of Dr. King’s “beloved community.” If you are interested in finding a service event in your community check out the searchable database at www.mlkday.gov.

SCA is hosting a number of events around the country, designed to bring people together in service to their parks and their communities. Below is a brief listing of SCA related events (some are public events while others are events for SCA corps members). Contact information is included in case you want to get involved or learn more:

Pittsburgh, PA: Martin Luther King Day in the Park: Celebrate the Dream
SCA, Venture Outdoors, and Pittsburgh Citiparks invite you to join them for the 5th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Park. The event is made possible through sponsorship of the Dominion Foundation. One of the largest celebrations within the city, MLK Day in the Park is free and open to the public. Outside, children and families will enjoy ice skating, sledding, and marshmallow toasting. In the Schenley Park Rink a variety of art activities and refreshments will be available. Children’s art projects will be led by professional artists organized by Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

When: Monday, January 15, 2007 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Where: Schenley Park
For more information on this event, contact Nathan Shaffer at 412.325.1851 or by email.

Seattle, WA: Conservation Leadership Corps All-Corps Retreat
SCA volunteers will be removing non-native plants, planting native groundcover plants, and repairing storm-damaged trails—providing Seattle Park’s Camp Long with 250 hours of service. Many new students will be joining in from high schools throughout the Seattle area, with sixteen returning mentors who will serve alongside 3rd and 4th year students. With this work-play-learn philosophy, the students are running workshops on Leadership, Orienteering, and Leave No Trace, as well as organizing games, campfires and night hikes. “The thing that has us really jazzed about MLK weekend,” an SCA staffer said, “is the enthusiasm of our returning and new students. They have been working hard to pull this together.”

Oakland, CA: Conservation Leadership Corps Retreat and Service Project
Saturday and Sunday, all the CLC students will head up to Slide Ranch, a non-profit that uses food to teach about sustainability. It’s a historic farm, all organic, and environmental education facility. On Sunday, SCA will work at the ranch, pulling invasive plants from around the property. On Monday, the group will go to Alameda for a full day of service with the Alameda Point Collaborative , an intentional community dedicated to providing a community environment where formerly homeless people can build their lives again. SCA will be building trails on the property for residents to enjoy, and doing some work in their community garden.

For more information on this project or SCA’s work in Oakland email Justin Laue.

Other resources and events for the MLK Day of Service:
One great resource for events and activities for MLK day is also your local college or university. Combing the web these past few days I have found innumerable conferences, events, service projects, and other initiatives being offered by campuses across the country. These events are usually free and open to the public.

I will be attending an event at Yale University called, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy of Environmental and Social Justice” (http://www.yale.edu/peabody/events/mlkday.html). The keynote speaker at the event is Peggy Shepard, executive director and co-founder of West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc. Her list of accomplishments and titles is long and impressive, but I will blog about her and her remarks in more detail after the event. Check back for that and other reflections on Dr. King over the coming month.