Hundreds of students started the spring semester with George Mason University’s 8th annual Martin Luther King Day of Service, organized by the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education and the Department of African and African American Studies on Jan. 19, 2015.
The MLK Day of Service on is a national initiative signed into law by President Clinton in 1994. Since then, hundreds of organizations and universities across the nation have participated in the event.
“This year’s day feels as significant as ever especially given the amount of social injustice that has occurred over the course of the last year in places like Ferguson, Cleveland, and NYC,” said Kevin Stoy, the Living Learning Community coordinator for Mason’s Honors College.
Mason’s MLK Day honors not only Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s commitment to equality, but to service and participation in the community. This year, it is focused on three categories: grassroots organizations, nonviolent resistance and immigration reform and citizenship.
Students picked from five different service projects in the D.C. and Northern Virginia region to participate in, from volunteering at shelters to helping high-poverty communities in the area.
The opportunity at Women Giving Back, a HomeAid program in Sterling, VA, was especially popular this year, with almost a hundred volunteers sorting, organizing, and preparing donated clothes for women and children in need.
“A lot of people want to give back,” says Ashley Whimpey, a freshmen participating in her first MLK Day at Mason. “It just quickly seems overwhelming. Then, suddenly, you just get on that bus and you start physically putting clothes on hangers. Every item I picked [clothes] up, I tried to think about how it might mean a lot to someone to have it, and I’m right here as one of the steps to help that person get something they need.”
Apart from the service opportunities, MLK Day was also being celebrated this year through various events scheduled throughout January, including an Instagram photo challenge, movie viewings, guest speakers and a charity basketball game.
Stoy says Mason’s students should celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy however they choose but that they should “do something.”
“Give back,” Stoy said. “Or take some time to yourself. Maybe read Why We Can’t Wait or something by James Baldwin or Gwendolyn Brooks. Take advantage of our close proximity to D.C. by visiting Dr. King’s memorial.”
To further celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, ODIME presents The Spirit of King Award to recognize one student and one faculty member who have made significant contributions to the inclusiveness and diversity of Mason’s campus. Recipients will be honored at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration held on campus Jan. 27.
Featured photo credit: Avery Powell