Students at Southern Arkansas University got creative on two Days of Service honoring the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Engage AR provided funding for both events. SAU volunteer coordinator, Katie Heese, organized both Service Days. This year’s MLK theme was racial healing expressed through the arts. On Jan. 17, SAU students demonstrated how they healed by painting meaningful canvases. On Jan. 28, the Day of Service continued at the Boys and Girls Club of Magnolia. On Jan. 17, Steven Ochs, chair of the Art and Design Department, supported and encouraged students, staff and VISTA fellows to participate in the Program. Some participants donated their canvases to be displayed as a mural in the Magale Library.
“I can say that I truly enjoyed the experience of all races coming together in unity to create meaningful pieces,” said Essence Thomas, a sophomore Psychology student at SAU. “One thing I’ve always believed is that we are all the same, just different colors, shapes and sizes. It reminds me of a quilt. A quilt is built with many different shapes that are different colors, but it still gets the job done as a blanket. Imagine if we all came together as a country and served our purpose of love and comfort like a quilt and how many real worldly conflicts we could then solve as one. And with more events like this, we are slowly accomplishing that goal one day at a time.”
Thomas said her favorite quote comes from Dr. King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
For the Day of Service at the Boys and Girls Club on Jan. 28, Club director, Chris Ludwig, worked with Heese. SAU VISTA fellow, Alvian Miller was among the volunteers who spoke to the children about Dr. King’s life and purpose and asked if they wanted to take the pledge to honor and support MLK. Fifty-three K-5 children responded to the call. With the help of SAU volunteers, the children stamped their painted hands on a banner as a pledged to be kind to one another. Miller also asked the children about their biggest dreams. Some expressed an interest in becoming professional athletes, while others said they wanted to become teachers, principals, businessmen or doctors. Children were challenged to think deeply about the ways in which they can honor Dr. King. Deneisa Jamerson, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, encouraged them to consider the meaning of Dr. King’s dream. They responded that all races can be together without fear of discrimination, and that equal rights and freedoms apply to all people. They knew that Dr. King, who they described as a great preacher and civil rights activist, preached a message of love.
“He wanted you to love everyone for who they are,” Jamerson said. “He wanted you to be an individual. Part of our mission here at the Boys and Girls Club is providing a place where you can come and be who you are.”
The children said they can be leaders at the Boys and Girls Club by being kind and respecting one another. “Great futures start here,” Jamerson said, “so you have to start here. You have to be kind to each other.”