Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Our School isn't ON with MLK Day

link to published article

Inauguration Day falls on the legal public holiday for the birthday of Martin Luther King January 21, 2013. Whether this was coincidence or a conspiratorial plot it is the second time that this holiday has coincided with a presidential inauguration. (Remember President, Bill Clinton, 1997?)

MLK day has been a federal holiday since 1983 when it was signed into legislation however, it has   only been recognized as a national day of service since 1994. Dr. King's legacy as a motivator and Civil Rights leader is celebrated through services that are meant to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers and create solutions to social problems. (United We Serve) (King Center Website).  Individual or communities that volunteer for organized projects or design their own should consider the tangible and spiritual gains made through their involvement. This is well and good except that I am unable to find organized service projects here in the state of Vermont.

I clicked on the state link to the MLK Day of Service  and discovered that "your search did not match any volunteering activities." I tried several town zip codes and was delivered that same response. And this is not a surprise. Being a Vermonter has always been a conundrum for me. Currently, Vermont is 95.5% white according to the US Census, we are considered a blue state, a liberal state yet we are not a diverse culture. We have an interesting history of intense poverty and struggle and it was well into the 20th century before the state would accept federal assistance or build actual highways.  We sent volunteers to fight in the Civil War and demonized pacifists during WWI.  We deplore inhumanity yet are inexperienced when required to acknowledge race or ethnicity.  Most Vermonters would rather avoid race issues than risk saying or thinking the wrong thing.  We do not intentionally snub the national day of service and would argue that we don't need a federal holiday to take care of a neighbor, rebuild from hurricane damage or pull a vehicle out of a snow embankment.  It isn't ignorance that keeps Vermonters from nationally recognizing a DAY ON, it is that we are all working in a service industries that serves others.

I have taught at the same school for sixteen years and thought that it was sensible for students to have the day off while our school faculty attends in-service.  Only recently, in the past three years have I begun to understand the difference between a day ON and a day OFF.  A day ON is meant to bring people of all ages and backgrounds together to improve lives and achieve common goals. Best of all, the day is meant to allow individuals to live up to the purpose and potential of America, which means that we don't have to be limited in what we think we should accomplish.

I intend to be fully participatory in my day of school in service and this year I intend to use my free time after work to engage in a community project with my daughter. If it means spearheading a project, I will shoulder that responsibility. For myself, I started working on grant writing for my community library.  It will take several days of dedicated time to writing the grant but the outcome will be worth it. When I click on the MLK site with 05655 next year, there will be at one more local community project listed for others to engage in.

I did discover that
Henry Louis Gates Jr, well- known Harvard professor and African American scholar, will be the keynote speaker for the University of Vermont's MLK week.

School clubs/ advisories will begin ongoing projects (such as letter writing to lobby for specific human rights campaigns). is a fantastic resource for organizations and volunteer opportunities.  

Burlington - Americorp Vista is organizing and listing projects for individuals to discover. Mostly college students are involved.  They do much of their work in the old North End. They clean up streets and sites that need beautification .  
Upward Bound of Lamoille County is looking for some community service, (previous plans fell flat).  

One teacher sent me a link to the 57th Inauguration site-  And the zipcode will help you pinpoint local projects within a 40 mile radius. 

Vermont Historical Society is ON
SerVermont site is undergoing changes and seems to lack current activity.

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