The College community gathered Monday to reflect on the deeds and words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in particular: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
Swarthmore answered that with a Day of Service, for which students, staff, and faculty from all across the College donated and packaged school supplies and crafted holiday cards to be delivered to 165 Chester students in need.
The event, held in Upper Tarble, kicked off a week of programming at the College in memory of Dr. King. Prominently featuring the children of faculty and staff, as well as Dining Services and Environmental Services staff members who often have to work during campus events, the Day of Service celebrated and fostered community.
“It was packed,” says Joy George ’20, a political science and Black studies major from the Bronx, N.Y., who managed one of the collection tables. “For folks to have come out in the freezing cold and given up two hours of their time to help the children of Chester was really heartwarming.”
“It shows that the community of the Black Cultural Center,” a co-sponsor of the programming with the Office of the President and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, “is really growing,” adds George. “But also just that there are folks wanting to be connected and to volunteer, which is beautiful to see.”
Dion Lewis, assistant dean of the junior class and director of the BCC, and staff from the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility identified the five local organizations—the Chester Community Charter School, Chester Eastside Ministries, God’s House of Glory Haven of Peace, the Chester Boys & Girls Club, and the Community Action Agency of Delaware County—to receive the donations. Each child will get a backpack with school supplies tailored to their particular site as well as a personalized card from someone in the College community.
“Participating in the Day of Service is a way of paying homage to Dr. King’s legacy, and a reminder that we have a responsibility to members both within and outside our community,” says Lewis.
The Day of Service was followed by a lunch for the volunteers, and then, at 7 p.m., a screening and discussion of Selma, the 2014 historical drama on the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.
There will be a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the BCC, in memory of those who have suffered while promoting equity and inclusion. The week of programming concludes at 12:30 p.m. Friday with a community collection at the Friends Meeting House, which will include quotes from Dr. King, remarks from Maurice Eldridge ’61, and a performance by the Gospel Choir.
The candlelight vigil, says Joyce Tompkins, director of religious and spiritual life, “will serve as a stark reminder” that for as much as Dr. King achieved, his dream has not been fully realized.
“It’s helpful to remember that people are still making sacrifices to bring justice to everyone,” she adds, “and that we’re not there yet.”