It’s nice to have a day dedicated to service and community, but I like to think of it as a reminder for the work that needs to be done and our role in it. The day is a starting point, a time to reflect on what is valued, to cultivate a beloved community mindset
Each year, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is intended to be a day of volunteerism to honor the life and legacy of the Civil Rights icon.
At Bridgewater State University, the third Monday in January is always a very busy day.
“MLK day is a National Day of Service, it’s the only federal holiday known for being a ‘day on’ not a ‘day off,’ and encourages citizens to make a positive impact,” said Jennifer Thibodeau, director of programs at BSU’s Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice (MRISJ).
MRISJ is offering three different opportunities to celebrate MLK day this year, including a campus service project planned for Saturday, January 21. The move to the weekend is geared to encourage more students to participate this year, Thibodeau said.
“We are really trying to make it as easy as possible for folks to get involved and be part of the day,” she said.
Each year, MLK Day chooses a theme; this year’s is, “It Starts with Me: Cultivating a Beloved Community Mindset.”
With that theme in mind, on Jan. 21 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. multiple service projects are planned that benefit MRISJ’s ongoing efforts to support local non-profits such as Meals on Wheels and the Old Colony Y.
The events will take place in the Rondileau Student Union large ballroom. Those interested can register here.
Stations will be set up for volunteers to pack school supplies for students experiencing homelessness, write postcards to local seniors receiving meals on wheels, pack bagged lunches to support people facing food insecurity, assemble DIY crafts for youths living in transitional housing, and create blank activity books for youngsters in the pediatric unit of Brockton Hospital.
The lunches will be distributed to Father’s Bills and MainSpring in Brockton, the school supplies will benefit Schools on Wheels.
“When we look at developing the service projects, we always want to offer projects meaningful to our community partners,” Thibodeau said. “We collaborate with them and ask what’s important, how can we contribute?”
As part of its Civic Speaker Series, MRISJ is also offering another MLK event, “Taking Action for Social Justice: A Conversation with Feminista Jones” on Jan. 26 from 4-5:15. This is a virtual event and registration is required.
Jones, who is a writer, public speaker, community activist, social worker and podcaster, will discuss ways activists can leverage social media to organize movements, how Black women can lead change in culture and society by building digital communities, and how intersectional feminism helps ensure everyone has a seat at the table.
“We look for speakers who are dynamic and will engage a broad audience and can speak to current social justice topics,” she said. “We believe she will spark interest in a wide range of members, both in our internal and external networks, and inspire participants that social justice can start with each of us,” Thibodeau said.
By offering these events to honor Dr. King, the staff members of the MRSIJ hopes to get the BSU community thinking of ways they can work together beyond the day of service.
“It’s nice to have a day dedicated to service and community, but I like to think of it as a reminder for the work that needs to be done and our role in it. The day is a starting point, a time to reflect on what is valued, to cultivate a beloved community mindset,” Thibodeau said.
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