When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on that famous August day in 1963, he dreamed of an America built upon the “solid rock of brotherhood.”
He dreamed of a nation that made a “pledge that we shall always march ahead.”
And he dreamed of a country where “all of God’s children…will be able to join hands.”
Those dreams were reality at Arkansas Tech University’s Hull Building Student Union on Monday morning when more than 150 members of the ATU community — students, faculty and staff — participated in a service project in remembrance and honor of King.
“It means a lot to me because it shows his impact on racism and social justice still continues almost 60 years later,” said Charles Moton, a senior from Maumelle and vocal music education major at ATU. “Social justice has always been a passion in my life, and to be in a fraternity with like-minded men in Alpha Phi Alpha, it makes me work that much harder.”
ATU’s 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Day service project included assembling hygiene kits and making blankets for those in need as well as writing letters to senior citizens. The event was organized by the ATU Division of Student Affairs.
“It makes me so happy to see them want to participate and be a part of this,” said Megan Bell, coordinator of civic and community engagement and leadership development in the ATU Department of Campus Life. “I haven’t seen this much participation in a long time, so to see them come together and do something for our community makes me really happy. We are here to serve others. When students give their time and skills to help others, that reflects what Dr. King stood for.”
Arkansas Tech has incorporated a community service project into its observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day since 2016.
During that first project seven years ago, ATU students, faculty and staff packed 37,000 non-perishable meals for neighbors in need. The following year, a similar community service project aligned with ATU’s observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day provided 40,000 meals for people who are food insecure in the Arkansas River Valley.
Since 2018, the emphasis for ATU’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day service projects has shifted to packing hygiene kits and providing them to local service organizations.
This year marks the 94th anniversary of King’s birth. A federal holiday scheduled to coincide with his birthday has been observed since 1986.
Taylor Wilkerson, a senior from Texarkana and health and exercise science major at ATU, summed up how King’s legacy influences her life and the lives of her fellow ATU students.
“He paved the way for us to be able to go to school,” said Wilkerson, “and live our life regardless of our color.”