On Monday January 16, Martin Luther King Day, volunteers gathered at the Blackstone Innovation School. So much has changed since the first MLK Day of Action in 2010! Seven years ago, the elementary school in South End had no library. However, on this morning in 2017, a team of volunteers was busy covering brightly illustrated books in protective plastic so that they could be added to the Blackstone Library’s growing book collection (now more than 12,000 well-catalogued volumes). This volunteer team was one of twenty-five action teams working on projects to improve the learning environment of the Blackstone. Nearly 300 volunteers, coming from 45 different organizations-- including urban and suburban churches, synagogues, public schools, charter schools, local neighborhood associations, AmeriCorps groups, private businesses and nonprofits--came together to paint classrooms and hallways, organize storage areas, make flashcards, and create teacher appreciation gifts. Seven years ago when the first MLK Day of Action at the Blackstone was organized, the projects addressed fundamental needs of the school building. Thanks to the continuous and ongoing commitment of numerous community partners, with the Blackstone Library team volunteers being only one of many, the MLK Day of Action has grown from a single day into a myriad of opportunities for volunteers to contribute to the health of the school throughout the year.
After gathering for breakfast and a morning orientation about the Blackstone and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the volunteers were challenged to act. The first action push came from the Revs. Liz Steinhauser and Marisa Egerstrom, both on staff at St. Stephen’s. In recognizing the number people present and diversity of volunteer groups represented, they asked the crowd to get to know someone new and learn why they were investing their time and energy at the Blackstone on that day. Then volunteers went off in their teams to work; tackled projects and completed them with gusto and skill. Reconvening for lunch, volunteers listened as City Councilor Ayanna Pressley reflected on the words of Dr. King, pushing folks to become more engaged in their communities in order to bring about change and justice. Then, teen organizers from the B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign taught people how to organize their public schools into sanctuaries of safety that will welcome all students, including immigrants regardless of status. City Councilor Tito Jackson closed out the day by recognizing the volunteers’ hard work and sending them off with words of inspiration on the importance of community service and the need for more action in the coming months.
Thanks to ALL of the volunteers who participated and team of leaders who helped plan the day, including City Year and the staff of the Blackstone. Special shouts of gratitude to all the organizations who offered financial support for the day, including
To get involved with St. Stephen’s Youth Programs’ partnership with the Blackstone Innovation School, please contact Maureen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To remain active in the Sanctuary Campaign, contact Sarah at email@example.com.
By Maureen Burns, Lead Organizer of School and Community Partnerships