As a group of volunteers from PC gathered at the Community Garden in Clinton Monday, English professor Dr. Kendra Hamilton stopped for a brief talk to share the meaning of the day.
“When Martin Luther King talked about love, what he meant was action,” Hamilton told the group of students, faculty and staff. “He wasn’t talking about feeling. He wasn’t talking about an emotion. He was talking about what you were willing to do.
“So on days like MLK Service Day, we put our words about service into action. Here is a place that was an empty lot, where people threw beer bottles and cans and trash. A group of people from the community, from the churches, and PC came together to turn it into beauty and a place where we’ve done health programs. We’re doing cooking classes. We do dinners. So, what we’re enacting is community.”
Themes of love and service continued throughout the holiday.
Members of the campus and community used their day off to serve across Laurens County at various volunteer sites including the Community Garden, Whitten Center, Thornwell, the Laurens County Humane Society, Langston Place, and the Clinton Presbyterian Community, where the PC Choir performed.
Around 150 volunteers participated in service projects, said the Rev. Rachel Parsons-Wells, director of Religious Life and Service.
“It was so powerful to see people come together, to go out and serve our community,” Parsons-Wells said. “It is easy to get preoccupied with your work or study and forget that we are all one community in Laurens County. MLK Day Service and Convocation remind us how bound together we are.”
Earlier in the day, around 15 students, faculty and staff participated in an NCBI diversity and inclusion training. The effort helps individuals understand diverse experiences through relationships.
While We Live, We Serve
PC freshman and baseball player Ashby Smith was among students at the Community Garden cleaning, weeding and planting back rows in the dirt.
“Our coach and our team like to give back to the community,” Smith said. “Martin Luther King’s legacy is really important, especially to our team. We’re really one for all, and we like to connect with each other and do for others.”
Senior Mallory Hopkins and sophomore Riley Frierson both reflected on MLK’s legacy and PC’s service motto, as they played with children at Thornwell with other student volunteers including fellow members of the soccer team.
“I really like kids,” Hopkins said. “Honestly, this kind of thing doesn’t seem like service. I think about how fortunate I am, and so many PC students are. We’re called to serve others, and we’re thankful for the opportunities we’ve been given.”
Hopkins said King’s life makes her think of “the incredible impact that just one person can make.”
“I think knowing that even doing small things can make an impact, even if it’s not on that level, is important to remember,” she said. “What you do matters.”
The second annual MLK Day Convocation was held Monday evening in Edmunds Hall.
Tumbling Shoals Baptist Association Choir, led by Carla Jones, performed selections including the gospel song, “We Shall Overcome,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday.”
PC students Jerius Duncan, Clay Wright and Cormac Kennedy performed a mashup of John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”
Keynote speaker, the Rev. Leslie Callahan, pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Penn., spoke from the topic: “MLK’s Vision of the Beloved Community: How Do We Get There from Here?”
Callahan talked about doing what is right even when it is not popular. She spoke from the book of Matthew, telling the story of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus Christ. Jesus, who did not require repentance, according to the gospels, still chose to “get down in the water” with all of the people he had come to serve.
She later spoke about how King chose to live in his community and work toward equality, even though he could have used his education to live an easier life. Instead, he decided to serve a cause greater than himself.
“He didn’t need to ride the bus, but he joined with others in Montgomery who didn’t have a car in order to associate himself with the concerns and the needs of his people mostly out of radical obedience to God,” Callahan said.
PC’s Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King will continue this week with a Rise Against Hunger event on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at First Presbyterian Church.