Student org ‘looks to King’ as inspiration to serve

Temple’s chapter of S.M.O.O.T.H. volunteered at a community center and a school on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

S.M.O.O.T.H. president Darius Hockaday and member Nelson Armstrong work their booth at the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at Girard College on Jan. 20. | CLAUDIA SALVATO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Growing up, senior marketing major Darius Hockaday learned about Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. from his father.

“He taught me [about] MLK’s speeches and his involvement in the NAACP and the Civil Rights Movement,” Hockaday said. “Along with other leaders like Malcolm X, [my dad] made sure I had a passion for community service throughout all my other endeavors.”

This compelled him to join Temple’s chapter of Strong Men Overcoming Obstacles Through Hard Work, or S.M.O.O.T.H., when he was a freshman. 

Now, in his second term as S.M.O.O.T.H’s president, Hockaday said he was proud that the group spent their MLK Day of Service at different events around North Philadelphia.

On MLK Day, S.M.O.O.T.H., which was founded at Temple in 2016, went to Girard College in North Philadelphia to discuss the importance of trash maintenance and recycling. Hockaday said the group collected more than 25 people’s contact information to conduct block cleanups.  

The group also joined Temple Student Government’s efforts to clean and beautify the Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center, where members helped repaint rooms, he said.

Hockaday felt it was fitting that S.M.O.O.T.H.’s anniversary this month coincided with MLK Day. 

“It was great just being able to have so many people in our organization willing to be in multiple places at once, and kind of team up,” Hockaday said. “I think is a great representation of how we would like to in multiple places at once.”

The organization was founded by Dwight D. Flowers at Morgan State University in 2009 to unite young males at Morgan State and help them grow academically, personally and professionally, according to the organization’s website. It later opened chapters at Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland and at Temple. 

At Temple, members participate in community service projects, like hosting a Young Gentlemen’s Forum at a local middle school and speaking with young Black children about what it means to be a “young gentleman,” said Olajide Soyinka, a senior psychology major and S.M.O.O.T.H.’s director of community service.  

Additionally, S.M.O.O.T.H. goes on hydration walks, where they visit populated areas of Center City and give out cold water to people experiencing homelessness, he added.

Olajide Soyinka, a member of Temple’s S.M.O.O.T.H. chapter, explains his organization’s goals and initiatives to an attendant at the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at Girard College on Jan. 20.

Across its three chapters, S.M.O.O.T.H. has contributed more than 400 hours to their communities, according to their website.

Soyinka said the group prides itself on following in the footsteps of King and providing service that affects the Temple and North Philadelphia communities.

“We look to [King] as an inspiration and something that we as individuals are striving to be,” Soyinka said. “We’re able to have a bigger impact on the community as a group of African American men because of his sacrifices and the impact that [King] has had.”

King serves as an inspiration to how its members live their lives, Hockaday said.

“I think [there’s inspiration in] his willingness and his passion to give back to the community, especially as a Black male leader going through so many obstacles to bring change,” he said. “It connects us, being that it’s a different time period but that dream and that mission doesn’t die.”

Devon Rembert, S.M.O.O.T.H.’s faculty advisor, said youth mentorship is one of his favorite ways to give back. 

“Children and faculty really appreciate the added support and representation,” he added. “It is always important to give back to the younger generation.”

“What we do is solely for the benefit of the community and for those that live here,” Soyinka said. “I think that’s something that’s important for young men to look at on this campus.”

Nico Cisneros contributed reporting.

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