Team Detroit Honors MLK Day

By Hicks on February 7, 2012 in AmeriCorps

In the spirit of community service, compassion, and commitment to what Dr. King famously called “beloved community,” AmeriCorps AIDS United Team Detroit joined AmeriCorps members across the nation in making this year’s Martin Luther King holiday a day on – not a day off.  In contrast with past years, when activists boldly took to the streets, our team chose a less public display of solidarity and commitment to social justice. From behind dimly-lit warehouse walls, this year’s Team Detroit decided we would take to the shelves.

While friends and family slept in late, I’m proud to say that Team Detroit arrived bright and early, at a kick-off rally hosted by City Year Corps members, serving nearby. Once the formalities of introduction, historical acknowledgement, and preparation were complete, the team converged on an unlikely building, just a few miles north of the downtown core. Outside the small office space, we waited for the clank of a chain-link gate’s opening, then followed dozens of other volunteers through a discreet side door, and into the warehouse stowed behind.

Clambering away from the icy January wind, we piled into a cramped aisle, tucked between two columns of metal shelves, on top of which lay countless stacks upon stacks of books. Greeted by an older man who beamed from ear to ear, Team Detroit was introduced to the work of the Kiwanis Book Club. Kiwanis, we learned, was an organization committed to promoting literacy in Detroit youth. As we further surveyed our surroundings, Team Detroit members realized that the two towering bookshelves were just the beginning of what was actually a mountainous literary collection. There were books piled everywhere, so that it was nearly impossible for the scores of volunteers to avoid brushing shoulders—or, occasionally, stepping on toes. All these books—donations collected from near and far—were to be sorted, packed, and sent off to teachers who could then send them home with a student unable to afford to purchase literature.

As we got to work, it was hard to avoid grinning. Smiling to myself, I thought, if I had to pick just one, I’d say MLK day was my favorite team day, so far. That’s because, of all the national holidays, Martin Luther King Day has always been my favorite. Its spirit is beautifully in sync with the core value of the AmeriCorps program – to serve, and participate actively in community. This past MLK day, we didn’t sleep in late, spend money, or dress up in our nicest clothes; but we did give a gift. And, after some reflection, I think it’s safe to say we were given a gift, ourselves, too.

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