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4:09 PM / Sunday February 5, 2023

20 Jan 2023

The 28th Annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service event takes place

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January 20, 2023 Category: Local Posted by:

 Its main venue, located at Girard College, featured information about year-round resources.

ABOVE PHOTO BY: Photo: Global Citizen365

By Constance Garcia-Barrio

At Girard College, the main venue of the 28th Annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service held this past Monday, hundreds of volunteers honored Dr. King’s memory by providing, free of charge, services to save and enrich lives. 

Volunteers ranged from musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra, which gave a tribute concert, to the Urban League of Philadelphia, which presented a job fair.

The day’s theme of stemming gun violence encouraged optimism by sharing ways to save lives and sadness about the toll guns have taken. 

“As we honor Dr. King’s legacy, we should recall that gun violence took his life,” Todd Bernstein, founder and director of Global Citizen 365 as well as its current president, said at a news conference about plans for this year’s MLK Day. Bernstein organized the first MLK Day of Service in the nation here in Philadelphia. Global Citizen arranges the Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service and year-round civic engagement programs. 

Speakers at that press conference included Mayor Jim Kenney, F. Christopher Goins, president of Girard College, and others, including Kent Julye, father of Zachariah Julye, murdered by a gunman last year.

 “Zachariah was 19 and 6’5, and had a smile for everyone,” Julye said. “He was at a party. Things didn’t feel right, so he went outside to wait for his friends. He did the right thing. He didn’t want to leave them. He was shot while he waited for his friends.”

The shooting changed the course of Julye’s life. 

“I’m 61,” he said. “At a time when I was looking forward to leisure, I have to take up advocacy. I can’t remain silent. It wouldn’t do Zachariah well.”

Julye wanted this year’s MLK Day to spur more decisive action to end shootings. 

“My hope for [the MLK Day of Service] is that people will begin thinking about what they can do to stop gun violence, and that those who have been working in isolation can find a way to lock arms with others,” he said.  

Partnerships have already begun. Groups, resources, and sponsors at Girard College, which served as the region’s signature project site for the 14th consecutive year, relied on collaboration. Independence Blue Cross and United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, and 50 other organizations sponsored the event.

Along similar lines, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Temple University Hospital, the Black Doctors’ Consortium, the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and other groups pooled resources for the signature project, gun safety initiatives. The project involved assembling gun-safety kits, including gun locks, to distribute to the community on MLK Day and afterwards. The kits also contained information about social services, immediate response, and coping with the aftermath of gun violence.

Other kits contained tourniquets, gauze, chest seals, and other items to help treat critical wounds on the scene. 

Tiffany Fox, events coordinator for the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services (DBHIDS), emphasized that DBH can help with the trauma following gun violence.

 “That could include being shot, witnessing a shooting, or losing a loved one to a shooting,” Fox said.

 Fox emphasized that DBH also has a broader scope.

 “I want people to understand that we have services for behavioral health issues,” she said. “There’s a 988 hotline for suicide prevention and other crises.”

Fox said that DBH is also available to staff a table at events free of charge. Those interested should call 988 or: (215) 685-5440.

The American Red Cross also provided information for the public. La Valle Warren, the organization’s regional sickle cell account manager, said that sometimes there’s a reluctance in the Black community to give blood, but that stance is counterproductive.

 “Rare blood types can be specific to a race or ethnic group, so we need more donors,” Warren explained. People can call 1-800-RED CROSS for information. 

The Black Doctors’ Consortium focused on health as well. Consortium members offered free COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

Volunteers in the Greater Phila. Martin Luther King Day of Service packing food for victims of natural disasters. Photo courtesy: Todd Bernstein-Global Citizen

While some organizations looked at the aftermath of gun violence, others addressed ways to prevent shootings. 

“MLK Day gives us a chance to give young Black men a glimpse of career possibilities and the difference a mentor could make in their lives,” said Gary Stovall, 60, a member of 100 Black Men, Philadelphia Chapter. “Besides mentoring, we offer education, financial literacy, prizes, and an “Earn While You Learn” program, for boys and young men from first grade through twelfth grade,” Stovall said.  For more information, visit: www.100blackmenphilly.org. To register for youth mentoring programs, visit: www.100bmp.eventbrite.com.

 Groove Phi Groove Social Fellowship, Inc., a kind of “pseudo fraternity” that focuses on scholastic attainment, also had representatives at MLK Day. 

“We advocate for academic achievement,” said Gregory Steward, noting that the Cheyney Alumni Chapter was staffing the table. “We also work on developing leaders to help alleviate social and economic problems, especially those affecting Black boys and men.” 

Groove Phi Groove was providing children’s books at no cost.

 “We’re giving out free children’s books because reading gives children a broader frame of reference,” Stewart said. “That, in turn, gives them more knowledge. They’re better equipped to resolve conflicts.” For information, please visit: www.groove-phi-groove.org.

The wide range of anti-violence initiatives includes Germantown Deaf Ministries Fellowship, Inc. The ministry holds events such as an “Anti-Violence Family Fun and Game Night” and a sign language camp, said founder and president Roz McKelvey. Call (267) 225-0047 or email: [email protected].    

Another organization focused on peace of mind in handling potentially troublesome matters. Let’s See If We Can Help, Inc., provides assistance free of charge with tangled deeds and property rights. This nonprofit also has workshops on estate planning. Call (215) 665-8285 or visit: www.letsseeifwecanhelp.org

The arts had a prominent part in Girard College’s MLK Day. A singer sang inspirational songs, some of them popular in the ‘60s during the Civil Rights Movement. The visual arts added yet another dimension. Dreamline, a nonprofit, encouraged guests to make a banner by making a drawing on a piece of cloth and writing their vision for the future on it. “When you believe in a dream it changes everything,” the group’s logo says.  

The Dreamline banners complemented murals made by Philadelphia school students with guidance from Mural Arts Philadelphia. The murals, unveiled on the day of the press conference, hung from the balcony inside a Girard College building.

 “I helped paint a mural that shows a happy couple with their dog,” said Sudais Glover, a junior at Al Aqsa Islamic Academy, said on the day of the press conference. “It represents love. That’s what’s needed.”

Salif Toure, 18, a senior at Al Aqsa, hopes that the mural will stretch Philadelphians’ imagination.

 “If gun violence weren’t here, how would life be?” he said. “We want to go back to the old Philly, where people could be on their front porch or go to the park without fear.”   

For more information, visit: mlkdayofservice.org or call (215) 259-8374. 

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