On Monday, Jan. 19, the fifth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Interfaith Service was held at Brandeis. The event brought together many organizations and around 250 volunteers to celebrate the legacy of King through valuable community service. Brandeis students as well as middle and high school students from the surrounding area attended the daylong event.
The event was organized through a partnership between a wide range of groups, including many Brandeis student groups, the Multifaith Chaplaincy and several outside organizations. The Waltham Group, the Brandeis Black Student Organization (BBSO), the MLK & Friends Club and the MLK Scholars helped to organize and host the event.
The Sharon, MA,-based Youth LEAD worked in collaboration with members of the Brandeis community. Youth LEAD encourages young leaders to collaborate with peers of different faiths and backgrounds to promote positive change.
A strong partnership existed between Brandeis and the Boston-area organization Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries (CMM), which seeks “to mobilize congregations and communities across economic, religious, racial and ethnic boundaries so that, in partnership, we can work more effectively for a just and peaceful society and for spiritual growth and interfaith understanding,” according to CMM’s mission statement. CMM was founded in 1966 by people of different faiths who marched alongside King and, in turn, sought to bring his vision of social justice and equality to the Boston area.
Brandeis’ Protestant chaplain, Rev. Matt Carriker, who was very involved with the event, said that he believes the partnership “seems like a good fit for Brandeis, whose identity is social justice.” Carriker has been a chaplain at Brandeis for three years, but he has been involved with the Day of Interfaith Service for five, as he worked for many years with CMM. He praises the cooperation between the numerous groups involved in the planning process, calling it a “bonding experience.”
“King was so successful because he brought so many people together. If it’s just one group planning, it’s not going to be in the same spirit of Martin Luther King,” Carriker said.
During the Day of Interfaith Service, volunteers participated in an Educational Justice Fair, a series of social justice-themed workshops and a meal-packaging activity.
Angela Balcom ’18 is an MLK Scholar who became involved with the Day of Interfaith Service in late December. “The purpose of the day was to spend the day that would be considered a day off from school and treat is as a day on because that’s what we felt Dr. King would have wanted,” Balcom said in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot. She helped reach out to Brandeis clubs and local food banks to advertise the service event to Brandeis students. She also served as an MC for the event with fellow MLK Scholar Irene Wong ’17.
The volunteers packed meals of macaroni and cheese with soy, which gives the dish extra protein, so the dishes were three times more healthy than the average meal of macaroni and cheese. Through an assembly line production, volunteers added ingredients to the pasta, sent bags along to be weighed and finally sealed.
During the event, volunteers packaged a total of 12,000 meals. The expected number was 10,000, however donation boxes set out on Monday allowed for the additional 2,000—at a cost of 25 cents per meal. A representative from Outreach Ministries who attended the event announced it was a record-breaking day for meal packing between all the events to which they donated food on MLK Day.
The social justice workshops for students encompassed a range of topics. Some were led by Brandeis groups and some by outside groups. Watch CDC, REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, Amnesty International, BBSO, Chaplains on the Way, the Waltham Family School and Youth LEAD led the workshops. The Youth LEAD workshop focused on stereotypes and was led by high schoolers who participate in the program.
Students also attended a session titled “Forgiveness and Reconciliation and Non-Violence.” During the event, participants also watched videos on King, Carriker led the song “Peace, Salam, Shalom,” and Dean of Students Jamele Adams performed. At the close of the event, volunteers reflected upon their experiences as a group.
Balcom believes that the Day of Interfaith Service is “about moving forward and helping those we can and doing something on MLK Day that reflects his life and legacy.” Around the country, Martin Luther King Jr. Day has become a day of service seeking to do just this.
“When I reflect on Martin Luther King, on his life and legacy, I think how he’d want us to remember him would be continuing to work for peace and justice, to live out that Gandhi quote, ‘Be the change you want to see in the word,’ and not just talking about it, but living it,” Carriker said to further this message.
He commented on the state of equality in the world today, “I think a day like this helps because it’s so easy to get overwhelmed when you look at the magnitude of injustice and social inequality … when I see a day like this, I’m hopeful.”