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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: A Reflection on Dr. King’s Legacy


Monday, January 20th, 2020 dawned at 7 o’clock in Jacksonville, Florida; City Year AmeriCorps members bundled up in scarves, hats, and their City Year red jackets, braving frigid temperatures to march in Dr. King’s shadow.

Every year Jacksonville holds a parade in honor of Martin Luther King Jr and his work in the Civil Rights movement. This year was the first time that City Year participated in the parade. We made signs with his quotes, passed out necklaces and stickers, and created a power greeting (chants that City Year uses to energize students) specifically for the event. For three hours, we marched the streets of downtown Jacksonville calling out “We get to serve today and every day; MLK paved the way.” Many of the students we serve lined the streets as we passed, and City Year AmeriCorps members were able to interact with the community in a different way than we do typically.

The parade lasted until 1pm, and in the latter half of the day, City Year Jacksonville held a Race and Equity Summit. We discussed Dr. King’s life and works, other leaders of the Civil Rights movement, and our own personal connections to race and equity work. One of the sessions included a slideshow of Civil Rights-era photos of marches and protests, which also highlighted one particular photo of Dr. King at a march. That picture sparked a moment of reflection, and the true significance of that morning struck me. Thinking about the juxtaposition of his solemn face and the bright, joyful faces I had seen in my peers was intense. We marched the same streets our forbearers marched, but this time we were met with cheers and laughter instead of boos and scorn. The dogs that were on the sidelines did not snarl at us; the police were there to help, not hinder. We were there to celebrate their hard-won successes; we stood on their shoulders and saw far into the distance.

Dr. King is one of City Year’s most beloved historical figures. We look to him for guidance, and in turn, we have become a shining example of his Beloved Community- a community of people from different backgrounds that recognize our shared humanity, realize our duty to help everyone succeed, and answered the call to action to serve the most vulnerable in our society. The United States of America still has a lot of work to do when it comes to equity and how we honor diversity in our society. It is moments like the MLK Day parade that reminds me, however, that there’s still hope out there, that there’s a diverse, passionate group of young adults all over the country trying to change the world, one child at a time.

Read more about City Year Jacksonville’s service in the community here – a story of helping a community rebuild on Comcast Cares Day!

Are you interested in joining this movement of young leaders in next year’s cohort? Apply now to start your City Year story!

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