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Building a Beloved Community: A Recap of MLK Day 2021

Brianna Moran, Senior AmeriCorps Member, shares a drawing depicting a mentoring relationship with one of her students at Southwark School. 


Last month, 500 City Year Philadelphia (CYP) champions, AmeriCorps members, alumni, and community partners gathered virtually for our annual MLK Day celebration. While the event looked different from our usual in-person Day of Service, we enjoyed the opportunity to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and discuss the importance of building the Beloved Community—what Dr. King viewed as the ideal society, based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of one’s fellow human beings. 

“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” –  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

The day kicked off with Brianna Moran, Senior AmeriCorps Member at Southwark Schoolwho shared her experiences building community with her students. Darryl Bundrige, Executive Director and Vice President of CYP, expressed the challenges and triumphs of supporting virtual learning across 16 schools in Philadelphia. Sharif El-Mekki, Founder/Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Black Educator Development, spoke powerfully about being a Black male educator and the role educators play as activists disrupting the status quo of white supremacy. Darryl and Sharif answered questions from the group and gave their thoughts on building the Beloved Community within our schools. With these messages in hand, attendees went into small group discussions on the meaning of this goal and the action needed to transform ourselves and our communities into those Beloved Communities. You can watch our inspirational speakers below: 


CYP staff reflected on their main takeaways from the event and lessons learned about building Beloved Communities through our work. 


Darryl Bundrige considered the untold stories of the Civil Rights Movement, specifically those of Black women: 

I was reminded how much I/we still need to learn about this country’s history and how often we don’t hear the full story, or the story is revised/edited based on the storyteller and their motives. For example, few people know about Prathia Hall, a woman raised in Philadelphia. Not only was she one of the first Black women ordained to become a minister in the United States by the American Baptist Association, but she was also the woman who inspired Dr. King to use the phrase, I have a Dream. Ms. Hall used that phrase repeatedly when leading a prayer in a small town in Georgia after a church had been burned down. Dr. King attended the service, heard the prayer, and asked if he could use the phrase. The rest is history. Of course, it took another woman by the name of Mahalia Jackson, to encourage Dr. King to share the I have a Dream message at the March on Washington. 
We rarely hear about the role of women in the Civil Rights movement, let alone Black women, but their contributions are all worthy of noting and celebrating, and particularly this one. 


Warren Basla, Manager of Corporate Partnerships / CYP Alumni ’12 & ’13, found that Sharif El-Mekki’s message resonated deeply with his own experience serving as a City Year AmeriCorps member: 

“Sharif El-Mekki said it is our responsibility to ‘center people who are marginalized and not enjoying the full rights as a citizen within their own communities.’ 
I thought that was consistent with my experience working in schools. Sadly, our students are learning in environments not conducive to learning; living in communities that have been devalued in a city not providing pathways to educational or economic success. This is the crux of why I serve with City Year: to witness these inequities and provide what little support I can.” 


Andrea Carter, Vice President of Internal Communications (formerly CYP Senior Director of Communications & External Relations), spoke about activism and fighting for social justice: 

“My main takeaway from the event was the concept of activism through teaching. This was a welcome reminder for me that activism and the fight for social justice come in many forms. While I’m not a teacher, I’m able to elevate the educational equity efforts of our corps members and staff through my communications work. As it relates to the Beloved Community, I was struck by something Sharif El-Mekki shared in his talk: building the Beloved Community is about changing the power structures that exist. This is also something I’ll carry with me in this work.” 


Andy Jones, Instructional Director / City Year Seattle Alumni ‘12 & ‘13, expressed the importance of owning our shared responsibility in creating a Beloved Community: 

“To disrupt inequitable economic and social systems in our country, we must all take responsibility. The burden of creating a more just world is on each of us and going forward, I plan to do my part in building Dr. King’s Beloved Community with boldness and consistent action.” 


Dana DiNatale, Director of Finance and Operations / CYP Alumni ’12 & ’13, shared her thoughts on the meaning of Beloved Community: 

To me, the concept of beloved community’ means a community of people based in justice, inclusivity, and equal opportunity for all. 


Thank you to our presenters and attendees, and all of our sponsors who made this event possible: AramarkCenter for Black Educator DevelopmentCSX, JP Morgan & Chase, Klasko Law, Philadelphia Insurance Companies, Starbucks, and Wawa. 


We hope to be back beautifying schools across the city in January 2022, and we look forward to seeing you there!

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