Prayers, service celebrate King's legacy
Posted January 19, 2015
Durham, N.C. — The national holiday honoring the life of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has become a day for volunteer service across the country.
More than 2,200 people volunteered at events across the Triangle on Monday that were coordinated by the United Way of the Triangle.
At Saint Mary's School in Raleigh, a crowd of students, staff and volunteers spent about two hours assembling about 15,000 soup kits to stock food pantry shelves. Others created colorful fleece blankets and made flashcards for early childhood education programs.
"To me, it's just a great day of service that we can all be together and serve," said Bailey Ham, a senior at Saint Mary's who leads the school's community service efforts. "Our school's always serving the community, and it's just great. The community serves us a lot, being in the heart of downtown. So, just being able to give back just means a lot to us."
"People really want to contribute to their community, and when you just put the call out and say, 'Hey, we need some hands,' they show up, they bring their families," said Shena Thornton, who volunteered at the event along with her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority chapter. "You see how many young people are here – groups, various groups – it's really a wonderful event."
A similar event took place at North Carolina Central University in Durham, where 950 volunteers assembled soup mixes for area food pantries and made blankets for area homeless shelters. At Saint Augustine's University, various events on campus, including a book drive, were held to honor King's legacy.
The United Way hopes to extend the giving spirit through the end of February with a program called 40 Days of Peace. Various food, clothing and book drives and other service events are scheduled.
"Forty Days of Peace is really a recognition that there's not just one day we can serve, that there's a need in the community 365 days," United Way spokeswoman Melanie Davis-Jones said. "People are committed to making a change in their community. So, we just wanted to give them some more tools to be able to do it. They can do it with their church groups or book clubs. Students can do it."
United Way will accept donations from 40 Days of Peace events at their offices and take them to the groups that need them most, Davis-Jones said.
MLK prayer breakfasts draw hundreds
In the Triangle, King Day is also a day of prayer.
People from different faiths gathered Monday morning for the 35th annual Triangle Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Durham. WRAL's parent company, Capitol Broadcasting Co., sponsored the event.
"Give us the mind, the will and the courage to wage a peace that can dismantle the networks of terrorism and the structures of injustice, wherever they may exist, that has a choke-hold on peace and a choke-hold on justice," Oliver Muhammad, senior imam at the As Salaam Islamic Center of Raleigh, told the crowd.
The program featured a musical performance by Jekalyn Carr and a keynote address by James H. Johnson Jr., the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Johnson said King would find his dream for America remains elusive because America lacks a strategy to achieve it.
"Everybody would agree that our vision is for an America where everybody has equal opportunity for access, and everybody will say we're dealing with a problem. Ask how are you doing it, that's the strategy, ladies and gentlemen, the road map for change. We're short on that," Johnson said.
One of his recommendations was to enhance educational opportunities for at-risk youth, and he said the mission requires specific action from the faith community, philanthropic community, government and the private sector.
"This collaborative engagement is really about making sure everybody is on the bus in the right seats, headed in the right direction," he said. "If you don't belong on this bus, then go to another one because this is the one we're all about."
Crowds also were in Fayetteville for a breakfast and prayer in honor of King. The 22nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast at the Crown Expo Center drew a standing-room only crowd, and speakers came from across the state to talk about King's work and what it means today to achieve unity in the community.
"I think it's imperative to remember, as long as we possibly can, the sacrifices that Dr. Martin Luther King made, as well as others," said Rev Floyd W Johnston Jr., past president of the Fayetteville/Cumberland County Ministerial Council.
Throughout the day, marches and speeches and even a poetry mixer were planned in memory of King's dream of a multiracial, colorblind society in which all people have equal opportunity. The day is capped with an evening musical celebration at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts and a concert at Fayetteville State University.