MLK Day brings together Temple, North Philly communities

Temple University’s Office of Community Relations organized several events around Main Campus to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

Thousands of volunteers circulated throughout Girard College during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Monday. | DYLAN LONG / THE TEMPLE NEWS

For Andrea Swan, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is more than a day to give back.

It’s the chance to remember and learn from an ugly, not-so-long ago past when her own mother was unable to shop in grocery stores.

“Most people are born after the civil rights movement, and as generations pass, it becomes more of a memory in time,” said Andrea Swan, the director of community and neighborhood affairs at Temple’s Office of Community Relations. “These stories need to be shared.”

To keep King’s legacy alive, Swan’s office organized several service events for Monday’s holiday, which commemorates the famed civil rights leader’s birthday. Service included local cleanups and youth education events about King and his lasting impact.

The university’s projects this year emphasized promoting literacy among children. Swan and her team worked with Jumpstart at Temple University, a program affiliated with the national early education organization that works with children in low-income neighborhoods to help them achieve academically. Students also teamed up with Tree House Books, a local bookstore on Susquehanna Avenue near 15th Street, which gives free books to community members.    

“Treehouse has free books for people of all ages,” Swan said. “It’s great to work with them on a day like MLK Day.”

Other volunteers spent time at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center at 22nd Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue assisting with clean ups, while both of Temple’s basketball teams went to Beckett Life Center to connect with youth.

Temple also sponsored the annual MLK Day of Service event at Girard College on College and Ridge avenues. More than 100 organizations like the Philadelphia Fire Department, Aramark and  Mural Arts Philadelphia tabled at the school to teach people about their companies’ mission statements and the importance of MLK Day.

“It is incredibly important to commemorate MLK and it is especially fitting to do so in Philadelphia,” said Zabeth Teelucksingh, the executive director of the Global Philadelphia Association, which also sponsored the Girard College event. “It is a fantastic opportunity to position the fact that we are a world heritage city and an international city, and we are able to talk to all of these people in one day.”

Temple’s Ambler campus also took time to give back. Students volunteered in the 187-acre Ambler arboretum, collecting plant data and measuring trees, and donated to a food drive to benefit the Cherry Pantry, said Megan Cranney, the assistant director of student and campus life at Ambler.

“For students it’s a really good way for them to be mindful that this isn’t just their college, it’s their community,” Cranney said. “When they look back and reflect on volunteering, they are able to see how other people live.”

Temple’s Main Campus held an additional event to increase engagement with the community.  The Tyler School of Art hosted “Welcome to Our Neighborhood,” a collaboration between Temple University Therapeutic Art Club, the Department of Art Education and Community Arts Practices and The U School to show a documentary about well-known children’s television personality Fred Rogers. The school hoped the film would teach young people attending The U School about connecting with their neighbors.

“We teach kids that they should not be afraid of communicating with others,” said Sarah Gregory, an arts and education graduate student. “The movie that we showed, which involved Mr. Rogers, embodies that message.”

Swan said she believes volunteering creates a relationship between the community and Temple.

“The important thing is that children get to interact with inspiring Temple student,” Swan said. “When communication sprouts between them, it’s beautiful. These little projects help instill a fascination with Temple in the youths’ minds, which enables them to make goals and want to be a part of our university in their future.”

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