It was a snowy, blisteringly cold Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Chicago, but the icy weather and frigid temperatures weren’t enough to stop buildOn students from honoring the legacy of Dr. King. On the city’s West Side, buildOn students gathered at Stone Temple Baptist Church for a day of solidarity and service centered around Dr. King’s vision of unity and peace.
“I think it is important to serve on Martin Luther King Day because it is important to remember Martin Luther King and what he did,” said Deshaun Richardson, a junior buildOn student from Michele Clark High School in Chicago. “One of his quotes really gets to me. He said: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.’ That’s the true definition of positive change.”
For Deshaun and the other buildOn students from Carl Schurz High School, Michele Clark High School, Orr Academy, and Prosser Career Academy, serving at Stone Temple Baptist Church had an extra layer of meaning—it was the church that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at multiple times in the 1960’s during the Chicago Freedom Movement, as he called for an end to housing discrimination.
Above: Mariah McClure, a buildOn student from Michele Clark High School in Chicago, conducted interviews about how communities can come together to build a brighter future.
After participating in a commemoration of Dr. King’s life and legacy by the Stone Temple Baptist Church and Jewish United Fund, buildOn students led children in arts and crafts activities and interviewed community members about what Martin Luther King’s message of equality meant to them.
“Events like this one pull everyone together and shows that we are one, that we fight for each other.”
“My favorite part of the projects was the interviews,” said Mariah McClure, who is also a junior from Michele Clark High School. “I got to hear a lot of different people’s opinions on MLK Day and how it affects them. Events like this one pull everyone together and shows that we are one, that we fight for each other.”
buildOn student Nayaisha Edmond spent the afternoon running a face-painting station for children. “It makes me feel good to put smiles on others’ faces,” she said. “It’s important for young people to come out and serve on MLK Day because it helps us to understand what he fought for and how it’s reflected in our community now. It shows that what seems impossible is actually possible, we just need to put our minds to it.”
Above: buildOn student Nayaisha Edmond paints a peace sign on a young girl’s hand on Martin Luther King Day in Chicago.
The day of service went beyond the walls of the Stone Temple, as students spent time serving seniors and younger kids throughout Chicago. And the service of buildOn students wasn’t just contained to Chicago —buildOn students spent the day serving in honor of Dr. King in cities across the United States from the Bay Area to the Bridgeport, Connecticut. In Oakland, buildOn students marched for peace. In New York, they made and handed out care packages to the homeless. And in Detroit, students beautified their schools and collected clothes for their neighbors in need.
“…I feel coming out to serve on Martin Luther King Day shows that there are young people out here that want to fight for equity, not just equality, for everyone.”
“I dedicate all of my Saturdays to serving with buildOn,” said Mariah in Chicago, reflecting on what it meant to serve on such a special day. “Mondays are usually mine, but I feel coming out to serve on Martin Luther King Day shows that there are young people out here that want to fight for equity, not just equality, for everyone.”
Below: buildOn students in Detroit collected clothes for a family whose home was recently was lost to a fire.