By Ari Pak, MD High School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of Keo Xiong, MD Middle School Program Coordinator
Martin Luther King Jr. posited that “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” On Tuesday, January 20th, twenty three AALEADers answered that question at the Capital Area Food Bank, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. AALEADers dedicated their day to fighting hunger in the DC metro area, sorting and packing over 500 pounds worth of food for distribution to local soup kitchens, shelters, and food distribution programs across Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia.
In honor of Dr. King’s legacy, AALEADers dedicated their day off of school to contribute to the lives of others. AALEAD youth spent three hours sorting and packaging drinks, pastas, rice, snack items, and other staple food items that would go to support programs such as local soup kitchens and the Weekend Bag Program and After School Feeding Programs in Maryland where students receive free food to supplement their diet.
Over lunch, AALEADers reflected on the impact of their work and how they were carrying on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Many AALEADers shared about why it was important to contribute to something greater than themselves. One youth shared about a time in their life when they were on the receiving end of the Weekend Bag Program and how that free food helped them to get through a hard time in their life. They highlighted for the group how important it is to realize that the people we were volunteering to help were no different from ourselves, that everyone is going to need support at some time in their lives, and how important it is to give back to others when we are able to. Another youth connected the work we were doing with that of Martin Luther King Jr. They pointed out how, in choosing to volunteer and give time to help others, they were all leading by example as invested community makers and changemakers as King had done in the Civil Rights movement. They took the opportunity to encourage the younger AALEADers to continue making change beyond volunteering that day, encouraging them to follow Martin Luther King Jr’s example by always take a stand for what is right.
The final words I want to leave you with are from a quote by one youth who closed out our discussion on Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy: “MLK’s vision is not complete. There is still work to be done today.” As AALEAD youth continue to grow as leaders and volunteer in their community, they do so knowing that they get to do the work that was left unfinished in Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy. They are already stepping into these transformative roles as leaders in their own community, and supporting their peers and community members to do the same. That is a great legacy to live by.