Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Making Justice Present on MLK Day

"True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice."
- Martin Luther King Jr., in a 1955 response to an accusation that he was "disturbing the peace" by his activism during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Alabama
Youth from Red Hook and throughout New York City made signs and participated in a peace march through the neighborhood to celebrate Dr. King's lecacy.
Monday was a big day for Red Hook. Over 200 volunteers came to the Red Hook Recreation Center to honor the birthday and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by pitching in towards the neighborhood's continued recovery from Hurricane Sandy, facilitating workshops on nonviolence and inequality, and participating in a peace march through the neighborhood. Choosing to make Monday "a day on, not a day off" when schools and many businesses are closed was particularly poignant in light of this year's MLK Day coinciding with President Obama's 2nd inauguration, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 20th anniversary of the murder of beloved local educator Principal Patrick Daly. 

The day began with a visit from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who came to Red Hook to celebrate the service of AmeriCorps members from the New York Juvenile Justice Corps and volunteers from NYC Service. Volunteers donned face masks and plastic jumpsuits to scrape paint and restore the flood-damaged basement of the Recreation Center, an important community resource that has not been fully functioning since the storm.

In the Recreation Center's gym, dozens of local youth and teen participants from the Center for Court Innovation's youth programs, including the Red Hook Youth Court, the Brownsville Youth Court, and the Harlem Youth Court, were treated to a presentation on Dr. King's life and lecacy, followed by workshops facilitated by AmeriCorps members that connected his achivements and activism to the role of leaders and role models in participants' own lives. Afterwards, AmeriCorps and Youth Court members served as role models themselves to younger participants by working together to create signs and crowns for our peace march, and to paint MLK-themed murals to be distributed to local community organizations. 

Check out photos of the workshops and art projects (click to enlarge):

In the afternoon, over 100 youth, AmeriCorps members, staff, and other community members braved the weather to brighten up the bitterly cold, gray day with colorful messages of peace in a march through Red Hook. The march was a powerful visual reminder to the community that Dr. King's legacy lives on, and an inspiration to continue to embrace his message of unity and nonviolence, and to persevere in achieveing "true peace."

Check out photos of the peace march (click to enlarge):