Black History Month offers us a time to reflect on the many contributions African-Americans have made to this country and the world. Growing up as the children of hard-working parents in a melting pot community, the school my brother and I went to paused on a variety of special commemorative days to celebrate the rich diversity of all of our cultures and ethnicities. These early experiences and lessons from school have left an indelible imprint on my life, and what I recognize today is that these non-negotiable family values are distinctly connected to the work and service of many historical figures in black history whom we celebrate.
When Hunter Beaton was 8 years old, his grandmother picked him up from baseball practice and took him home to meet his new brother, a cousin who was being placed with his family as a foster child. Just a baby, his new brother had nothing – no toys, no clothes, no stuffed animals. When a second foster brother came to live with them, all he brought was a trash bag holding his meager belongings. It was the same for his foster sister. To Hunter, the idea that his siblings were only worth a plastic garbage bag seemed unjust.
Sixty miles east of San Diego is Boulevard, California, a rural mountain town that’s seen a recent resurgence of support thanks to local volunteers. Central to this spark of civic engagement is the Daubach family, leading the charge to inspire others to involved.
For Josh Kaplan, giving back to the community is part of who he is. Driven by the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam, or “repairing the world,” he believes each of us has the power to create change and participate meaningfully in the world around us. An avid soccer player, Josh turned his passion into action when he launched GOALS (Giving Opportunities to All who Love Soccer) in his hometown of Phoenix.
As someone whose early career was as a civil rights attorney and who now leads a global organization focused on volunteering and service, spending the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Atlanta is a full circle experience. In the span of five days, we joined this community to honor civil rights leaders; break bread together while discussing economic justice; roll up our sleeves to offer love and care to a west Atlanta neighborhood; and host just more than 50 Fortune 500 companies focused on integrating social purpose with business strategy.
Each year on the third Monday in January, friends, family, coworkers and neighbors come together in communities across the nation to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through acts of service. The largest national day of service, MLK Day is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on gains won during the Civil Rights Movement and to address contemporary issues facing our nation through meaningful civic dialogue and community volunteerism. At Hands On Atlanta, a Points of Light affiliate, it is also an opportunity to celebrate Dr. King in the city where he was born and raised.
For Annie Moore, Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision of a beloved community didn’t die when he was assassinated. A long-time community volunteer and activist, Annie’s passion is to revitalize her Atlanta neighborhood, bringing to life Dr. King’s vision of a strong, thriving, resilient community.
When Margery Hexton was 68 years old, in 1994, she moved from her home in Chicago to the rural Hawaiian island of Kauai to be near her daughter and grandchildren during retirement. Although her family was there, she left behind friends and a deeply rooted life. The way she coped, the bridge to her new life and community, was volunteering.
While many see Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a day off, we see it as a “day on.” It’s an opportunity to start your year in the spirit of volunteerism and service, continuing the legacy Dr. King, who spent his life working to better the lives of others.