MLK Day of Service: Detroit

By Lindzy Conley on January 31, 2014 in AmeriCorps

MLK Day of Service 2014 proved to be such an exciting time in Detroit that AIDS United AmeriCorps Team Detroit was fortunate enough to take part in two community initiatives within the city. The first community event allowed us to partner with the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Project in conjunction with Wayne State University. The AmeriCorps Urban Safety Project mobilized the community to help board up a series of abandoned homes along various routes to three different schools in Detroit to help foster safer communities for students and citizens alike. Team Detroit was able to serve on Day #2 of this three day service project, assisting with the project’s efforts near Osborn High School. The day started bright and early, and proved to be a cold and snowy day at that, but this did not stop the impressive group of dedicated volunteers that came out to insure this project’s success.


As there are a number of abandoned homes within the city, these homes can unfortunately be a target for illegal dumping. Team Detroit helped to clear away some of the trash and debris from these homes, and dispose of such items properly. In addition, we worked to clear away overgrown bushes and tree limbs to provide a clear route to the windows and doors of these homes, so that they could be boarded up easily. As blight is often a main area of concern for the city, it was nice to see so many groups and citizens come together to play a part in fixing the problem. As a team, we were aware of the blight within the city, but seeing the illegal dumping that takes place at these homes once they are abandoned was very eye-opening. The support of people from the neighborhood, as well as the city authorities, was heart warming, as we were offered hot chocolate and coffee from those passing by. It was wonderful to see the project successfully completed at the end of the day.


In addition, Team Detroit took part in the 11th Annual MLK Day community event in commemoration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event also sought to bring special recognition to the Freedom Summer of 1964, as well as to honor the memory of famed civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer. Several leaders and community members throughout Detroit joined together at the Central United Methodist Church to honor the life of Dr. King and reflect on the many valuable lessons his legacy taught us as a society.


A number of leaders throughout the Detroit community who had taken part in the Civil Rights Movement shared stories of their interaction with Dr. King, as well as Rosa Parks, whose life’s work continues to have an impact on the Detroit community today. We learned that Dr. King gave his famed “I Have a Dream” speech for the first time in Detroit before giving the speech months later in Washington D.C. during the March on Washington. Community choirs and poetry groups gave performances to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a quote from Nelson Mandela was also read aloud, which had a profound impact on Team Detroit:

“Let the strivings of us all prove Martin Luther King Jr. to have been correct, when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war. Let the efforts of us all prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold. Let a new age dawn.”

During this event, Team Detroit came together with hundreds of fellow community members to march in honor of Dr. King’s life, as well as in commemoration of Freedom Summer 1964, and the lives of those lost during this volatile time in our nation’s history. This time allowed Team Detroit to connect with other community members in meaningful ways, as we reflected upon and discussed Dr. King’s legacy, and how many of the civil rights issues he advocated for in his lifetime are still very much relevant today, as issues of race, gender and equality continue to impact our society.


Team Detroit’s favorite part of this experience was the opportunity to interact with the Detroit community in an authentic way, as well as the opportunity to see the impact of Dr. King’s life on the community at large.

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