Edison Middle School receives facelift during day of service

imageAn estimated 1,000 volunteers gathered at Thomas A. Edison Middle School to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by participating in City Year Los Angeles’ day of service.

The hallways of Thomas A. Edison Middle School were lined with volunteers wearing white t-shirts and singing and laughing as they worked. Each person was hard at work with paintbrushes in one hand and paint buckets in another, paying meticulous attention to painting inside the lines.

“I’m here to make a difference,” Jamie Cabrera, a student volunteer said. “You hear it a lot, but I really do want to help. Painting a couple of things doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’m sure the people at this school are going to be thankful for it. When they painted my school, I thought it was cool because I thought people really do care.”

Similar scenes could be seen across the school’s campus.

Volunteers were broken up into about thirty teams and were responsible for painting different scenes in different areas throughout the school. The largest indoor project was the painting of the portraits of all the United States presidents on both sides of the halls. Student volunteers were hard at work painting college logos to be put up around campus. Teams of outdoor volunteers painted different murals of musical notes, geometric shapes, sports symbols, and Thomas A. Edison Middle School’s logo.

Watch a slideshow of photographs from the event:

City Year corps members said it was extra-memorable serving on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

City Year’s Los Angeles branch launched in 2007 and has recorded 552,500 hours of service to the Los Angeles community. It is the fourth year City Year Los Angeles is participating in Martin Luther King Jr. Day of service.

“The significance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, particularly for our organization, is something we really cherish, said Daniel Foley,the Program Manager at Gompers Middle School in Watts/South LA.

“Our organization is based solely on the diversity of young people coming together from different backgrounds and different places and on Martin Luther King Day, the day that celebrates our country coming together and trying to unify itself as one, its very clear to us why we serve.”

City Year is a non-profit organization devoted to service in schools and around the community. It seeks to help students stay in school and stay on track to graduate.

imageThe bigger message is that of “community.” Building, creating, and connecting a community, a message that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also preached.

“He spoke a lot about creating the beloved community,” Sarah Bouchereau, a City Year corps member said, “and the idea that everyone can serve.

“And everyone can be great because they can serve. So we do this on this day on all of our sites across the country to commemorate his word. It means a lot, I feel like I’m part of something larger.”

Monday’s event also marked the beginning of City Year Los Angeles’ Heroes Program. One hundred middle school and 100 high school students kicked off their six-month participation in service to the community.

“It’s special for us to have our opening day on Martin Luther King Day,” Alexis Hernandez, a student volunteer said. “Because we are his dream that he had, we’re fulfilling his dream.”

Many of the City Year corps members were inspired by the turn out at this year’s service day. They hope that their program will make a difference in rallying a community behind its youth to increase the high school graduation rate.

“I grew up in similar communities,” Mario Fedelin, Program Director of City Year Los Angeles said. “And I know and understand what it’s like to go to a school that doesn’t have. I know what it’s like to be in a community where everyone isn’t connected.

“I think for me, personally, to be a part of a group like this keeps me going. It gives me hope that our young people are part of the solution not always part of the problem.”

Crowds gather in Leimert Park for Kingdom Day Parade

Leimert Park Village leapt to life this Martin Luther King Jr. Day as families filled the sidewalks surrounding the intersection of Crenshaw and West Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards to watch the Kingdom Day Parade and join in festivities honoring the holiday’s namesake.

Marching bands and drill teams from Beckman, Crenshaw, and Inglewood High Schools, among others, filled the streets with bold, brassy music as Los Angeles City Council members waved to their constituents from slow-moving convertibles.

At the end of the parade route, booths had been set up selling everything from food to tote bags to King-inspired T-shirts.

Crenshaw High School freshman and marching band member Tierney Shellmyer relaxed in the shade under the awning of the Vision Theater. He said it was hot marching and playing in a heavy uniform, but he was glad to be able to be a part of the day’s events.

“It’s good to be in the band. We have fun,” Shellmyer added. “And once we got down here towards Crenshaw, that’s when we really started playing. There were a whole bunch of people and we thought, OK, now we gotta really play.”

Radio station KJLH set up a stage in Leimert Park where local singers performed gospel songs or music that reminded them of King.

During a break in the music, 8th District Councilmember Bernard Parks took the stage and introduced Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who had flown in from Washington for the weekend.

Waters noted that while there is plenty of cause for celebration, today’s holiday does have a more serious side.

“We don’t simply come out just to have a good time,” Waters said. “We come out to give recognition to the fact that he lived, and he died for us. He sacrificed for justice and peace, and so we’ve got to be about some serious business.”

For Waters, that first order of serious business back in Washington is making sure the health care reform bill is not repealed.

On the sidewalks, however, kids eating snow cones, clowns crafting balloon animals, and high school friends hugging after a successful parade performance made it hard to stay too serious for too long.

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Inglewood pays tribute to legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

imageBelieve. Achieve. Succeed.

This uplifting triad echoed through Inglewood, Calif., Saturday morning as hundreds of community members filled the Tabernacle of Faithful Central Bible Church to honor the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr.

The words composed the 28th Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration theme, which also prompted the city’s annual student speech and art competitions.

“This was about the children and their understanding of assimilation and of Dr. King’s legacy,” said Inglewood Mayor Daniel K. Tabor, who moved to the city in 1966 as a sixth-grade student at Clyde Woodworth Elementary School. “The confidence they have is beyond awe-inspiring. They’re getting it from their instructors at school and from their parents who tell them that they can achieve what they set out to do.”

Monroe Middle School student John Cruz, one of the four speech competition winners who spoke in front of the church audience, displayed his self-assurance both on and off the stage.

“It felt good telling everyone what I feel about the dream of Martin Luther King [Jr.] because I hope one day I can turn it into a reality,” Cruz said. “Someday, I hope there will be a bigger crowd to hear. Really big.”

Student competition winners presented their speeches and art during the two-hour ceremony, which included performances by spoken-word artist Azure Antoinette, the Inglewood-based Parent Elementary School Choir and the Spirit of David Choir, which was a finalist in a national choir competition hosted by Verizon Communications, Inc., at Staples Center in October. KTLA Morning Show host Michaela Pereira served as mistress of ceremonies and actor Gbenga Akinnagbe served as grand marshal.

The annual celebration strikes a personal chord with Inglewood, as the city was one of the first in the nation to declare Martin Luther King Jr. Day a legal holiday, according to the City of Inglewood website. But due to recent budget cuts, an annual march to Hollywood Park following the church ceremony was removed from the agenda. The three-mile crossing symbolized civil rights marches from the 1960s.

“We always want more people here, and we need more advertising,” said Inglewood Unified School District Superintendent Gary McHenry, who noted that last year’s march brought more than 1,000 students from across the 19 public schools in the district. “This is an important event that celebrates how Martin Luther King [Jr.] awoke the consciousness of a nation.”

Families with young children made up most of the audience at the youth-centered celebration, but some attendees stood solo as longtime veterans of Martin Luther King Jr. events.

“There are some people who, no matter what type of event that honors Dr. King, they’ll be there,” noted Sabrina Barnes, director of Inglewood’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

William Brown, retired U.S. Postal Service employee and Inglewood resident, expressed unease at this year’s smaller turnout.

“Normally, it’s packed,” Brown said. “What really bothers me is that Dr. King and his followers paved the way for people to be where they are today. It seems to me that some people have forgotten that.”

After the event, organizers encouraged attendees to continue the celebration beyond the morning’s ceremonies, such as at the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace & Unity Parade Celebration in Long Beach, Calif., at which a festival was held until 5 p.m.

“We all have a responsibility to make sure that the young individuals see Dr. King’s vision,” Barnes added. “We, not just African-Americans, but we as a community and nation. He was speaking for everyone who suffered an injustice.”

Photos courtesy of Creative Commons