Plans for MLK Day of Service announced

Students, including Taja Thornton (second from left), 17, from six area schools display a civil rights mural to be displayed during the Day of Service. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Students, including Taja Thornton (second from left), 17, from six area schools display a civil rights mural to be displayed during the Day of Service. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Posted: January 10, 2014

PHILADELPHIA Noting the many challenges facing the city's public schools, organizers of the 19th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service said Wednesday that this year's programs would focus on helping schools, students, and their parents.

At Girard College in North Philadelphia, Todd Bernstein, director of the region's Day of Service, announced that this year's activities would pay tribute to the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that barred racial segregation in public schools.

Bernstein was joined by Mayor Nutter, Philadelphia school superintendent William R. Hite Jr., and other leaders as he made the announcement to about 200 people at Founder's Hall.

"It's really important that we mark the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, because Dr. King was a tireless activist for educational equality and we have a fiscal crisis in Philadelphia's public schools," Bernstein said.

On Jan. 20, more than 125,000 volunteers are expected to participate in projects throughout the Philadelphia region, Bernstein said, adding that the local Day of Service program was the largest in the country.

One of the key events is the Philadelphia Orchestra's 24th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert, at 1:30 p.m. inside Girard's chapel. For free tickets, go to www.philorch.org/mlk.

Other events at Girard include a job fair, a book drive, and a civil-rights movement workshop led by the Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters, the group that demonstrated in the 1960s to end Girard's then-discriminatory admissions policies.

Another project involves collecting and distributing donated school supplies, Bernstein said.

"While we rely on elected officials to make important decisions about the success of schools, we, the people, need to feel a greater sense of responsibility and involvement," he said. "That's why we will have a focus on collecting school supplies and distributing computers and books." He said donations could be dropped off in the lobby of The Inquirer, 801 Market St., Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Nutter announced that the winner of the organization's 2014 Harris Wofford Active Citizenship Award was the 16,000-member Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church at 2800 W. Cheltenham Ave.

"Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church has been a tremendous supporter of the King Day of Service," Nutter said, "and is one of our city's most civically engaged institutions."

The Rev. Alyn E. Waller, the church's pastor, was surprised when the mayor made the announcement.

"It's an honor," he said. "I am grateful."

He credited his congregation's commitment to helping young people.

"The real test of any culture is how we raise the next generation," Waller said.

The day began with the Girard College Lower School singing "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" and "True Colors," and included the unveiling of a mural honoring the Brown ruling. The 36-by-5-foot piece consists of several panels painted by students from different schools. It will be on display at Girard on the Day of Service.

Emmon'e Green, 13, a student at Brewerytown's Edward Gideon School who won an essay contest for the Day of Service, read excerpts from her work.

"I live out Dr. King's dream when I treat everyone with respect," she said. "I believe school should be a place where children are safe and everyone should be treated equally."

For more information on the Day of Service or to volunteer or register a project, go to www.mlkdayofservice.org or call 215-851-1811.


vclark@phillynews.com

215-854-5717

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