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30 Jan 2023

MLK Day: The importance of serving others in West Philadelphia

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January 30, 2023 Category: Local Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: 2023 MLK Day clothes giveaway at The Chosen 300 Ministries. (Photo: Jim Brown)

By Jim Brown

It has been 57 years since Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. last visited West Philadelphia near Mantua on October 3, 1965, where he addressed 10,000 people at the corner of 40th and Lancaster Avenue as part of his Freedom Now Rally Tour. As a result of his speech, community leaders at that time were empowered, and they have since passed the torch to new leaders, including DeWayne Drummond and Derrick “Bub” Pratt.

Last Monday, on what would have been Dr. King’s 94th birthday, the Chosen 300 Church Ministry, located across from the Martin Luther King bust and mural at 40th & Lancaster Avenue, and the Morton McMichael Elementary School, located at 35th & Fairmount Avenue,  both honored the late civil rights pioneer and icon.

Rev. Brian Jenkins and volunteers sponsored a free clothing giveaway outside the church, as well as free food to residents who stopped by, something he regularly does in the Mantua neighborhood.

At the event, Jenkins shared what the King holiday means to him and his congregation.

“Well, it’s about sacrifice,” Jenkins said. “The reality is that Martin Luther King gave his life to be able to serve others. When you think about his last speech on April 3, 1968, he says, ‘Longevity has its place. I’ve been to the mountaintop, and I’ve looked over and seen the promised land. I might not get there with you.’ The very next day, April 4, 1968, that’s when he was killed [on] the balcony of the hotel in Memphis, Tennessee after he was defending the sanitation workers in Memphis.”

“[So] when we think about him giving up his life, not only did he give up his life, [but] he wasn’t doing anything spectacular,” Jenkins continued. “He was simply following Jesus. And so, when we celebrate Martin Luther King, we celebrate him following Jesus, and we reciprocate that by doing the same by serving others and giving up our lives to the cause of Christ.”

The McMichael Elementary School held panel discussions on peace, power, progress and living Dr. King’s dream in 2023. They also held activities and community services in the school’s gym such as a fitness demonstration by Soul2solebounce, art activities with residents, youths creating anti-gun violence signs, vision boards, paintings of wood carvings, free haircuts, a clothing giveaway and free food. Volunteers cleaned up around the school, built shelves, and offered other services to aid residents who visited the school.

Fred Stokes, a legendary basketball player from Mantua who played in the NBA and ABA was honored with an Impact Service Award. He will be featured in the community’s new “Did You Know” series that will be displayed throughout the community to educate residents about the lives of their historic neighbors. Stokes was a standout high school and college athlete at West Philadelphia High School and Barber-Scotia College. 

Among the celebrated nominees were Antonia (Toni) Reed aka “Sister Bahamadia,” and Rapper MC Breeze. They were nominated by the residents of Mantua.

Over 275 people supported MLK Day of Service events in Mantua at the McMichael Elementary School throughout the day. 

McMichael Elementary principal Dolette Smith shared why it was important to hold this special event on MLK Day at McMichael. 

“It was the opportunity to actually have McMichael become that hub and that community place again where we hold events, where the community has an opportunity to come in and fellowship and do different activities.” Smith said.

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