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BYU celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. day with service projects

By Ashtyn Asay - | Jan 17, 2022
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Students sign up for one of the 16 service projects that were conducted on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.
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The Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir perform at BYU's MLK Community Outreach Day on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.
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Glasses waiting to be sorted as part of a service project for BYU's MLK Outreach Day on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.
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Nathanael Byrd performs "Lift Every Voice and Sing," also known as the "Black National Anthem" on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.

Students and community members honored the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with service projects at Brigham Young University on Monday.

BYU’s annual MLK Community Outreach Day was focused on one quote from King Jr., “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

The event was hosted by Y-Serve, a BYU organization that works to provide students with service opportunities throughout the community.

The keynote speech was given by Anthony Bates, the managing director for the Sorenson Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership at BYU.

“The theme and purpose of today’s events are about service. Nationally, this day was dedicated to a man, and though unspoken his wife Coretta, who gave everything they had so that not just me as an African American could have greater physical, emotional, mental, financial, and spiritual safety, but so that we as a community would be better off collectively,” he said.

Bates emphasized to the audience the importance of getting to know those they serve on a deeper level.

“We can donate food, or we can feed somebody. Are we willing to know that somebody enough to know what they like to eat? What they can’t eat? We could give anyone a can of Spam, but if somebody came to our dinner table would we give them a can of Spam?” Bates said. “We could give clothes to anybody, but how would we clothe somebody standing on our front porch in below-freezing temperatures? We can only clothe somebody if we know their preferences, their needs, their size.”

Students and community members were able to choose one of 16 service projects to participate in, each of which lasted approximately two hours. Participants sorted glasses to donate, decorated Valentine’s Day posters for a local veterans home, and served at off-campus locations like the Spanish Fork Krishna Temple.

“It is so incredible to see everyone come and serve as we work to honor Dr. King’s legacy” Bridger Woods, BYU student and current Executive Director for MLK Community Outreach Day, said in a press release. “We hope that those who participate leave with an increased desire to serve their community and have a deeper appreciation for the work that Dr. King did, and the work that still needs to be done.”

The event began with a cultural celebration at the Wilkinson Student Center and featured performances from the Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir, a group of performers of different religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, who come together to sing Christian gospel music, and Nathanael Byrd, a BYU student, performed an original arrangement of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the “Black National Anthem.”

In September 2021, Martin Luther King III spoke about his father’s legacy at a BYU forum. In addition to lessons about love and kindness that his father preached, King III also quoted the civil rights icon who was killed in 1968.

“You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve,” King said, quoting his father. “You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love and you can be that servant.”

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