Revisiting the legacy of Dr. King reminds us of the importance of community service. A celebration of his life and work can also give us an opportunity to talk productively about how race plays out in our lives and in the life of our community. We encourage you to use this celebration to introduce the idea that public dialogue can lead to change.
Start your event by describing what can happen when all kinds of people talk and work together to address issues of public concern. Explain that when people from all walks of life come to the table, they can build trust and new relationships, deepen their understanding of complex public issues, and generate new ideas that lead to change.
The “prize” can be a stronger community that is more inclusive, just, and democratic, where people are better able to solve their own problems.
At your MLK event, invite participants to break out into small groups for a sample dialogue. Start the small-group discussions with an overarching question:
- How is racism affecting our community today?
Here are some follow-up questions:
- What inequities do you see?
- What do you think Dr. King would say about race and racism in our country in 2010?
- What concerns you? What are the signs of progress?
- How did it feel to talk about race and your community in this way?
- Would you like to have a deeper conversation?
By involving participants in dialogue, you may be able to generate interest and support for a large-scale dialogue-to-change project. And you could begin to assemble a “working group” to take responsibility for planning and guiding this initiative.
Meaningful change does not happen overnight. It pays to lay a strong foundation, and plan for long-term support. Everyday Democracy can help you think about how to plan an agenda for your MLK event, and more. Please visit our website for more information. For other ideas for honoring Dr. King, go to www.usaservice.org.
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