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Volunteers Keep Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream Alive


On Monday, January 15th, America commemorates the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., the famous African-American leader of the civil rights movement.

On this day the country remembers King's accomplishments and his impact on the national character. In the 1950s and 1960s, King led peaceful protests across the country that helped end legal segregation and paved the way for major civil rights legislation. He was assassinated in 1968.

The Martin Luther King holiday is often commemorated with public memorial services, demonstrations and acts of community service. But outside the media spotlight there are other groups that keep Martin Luther King's dream alive all year long.

Martin Luther King Jr. gave his most famous speech in 1963 in Washington, DC at what was then the largest political rally in American history. And that speech, as well as all of King’s efforts to promote racial equality and social justice, continues to inspire the nation. Public recognition of King's contribution to justice, equality and peace include a national holiday honoring him and plans to unveil a memorial next year on the National Mall in Washington.

But across town in the nation's capital, at the Florida Avenue Baptist Church, there is another kind of memorial to Martin Luther King that goes on year round.

Volunteer Rachel Everette asks, "How many points does David have?" Rachel Everette has a dream. "I might be a person who works with graphic design 'cause I like doing graphic design," she said.

After school she comes here to get help and support to fulfill her dream. Carolyn Taylor is a volunteer tutor with the "I Have A Dream Foundation." "Most of these kids came from situations where no one would think they'd be successful but they will with the right help, so I'm just there to help."

The I Have A Dream Foundation is a national organization inspired by Martin Luther King's call for equal opportunity for all.

In a speech King said, "We will be able to transform the dangling discourse of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."

The I Have A Dream Foundation helps low income children in 64 cities across the U.S. The projects focus on academic mentoring and a variety of student interests, from sports to photography. In some cities, close to 90 percent of "I Have A Dream" students have gone on to college.

Volunteer tutor Seth Steed says the program in Washington is helping underprivileged students realize King's dream. “Martin Luther King's dream is one where people are judged on the content of their character not the color of their skin, and this gives these kids a better chance to get ahead in life. So definitely this is consistent with Martin Luther King's message."

And the students, such as the Leach sisters -- Porshia and Aquila -- have big dreams. Porshia wants to be a lawyer and Aquilia a successful doctor.

Program coordinator Lonell Johnson says Martin Luther King's years of struggle on behalf of civil rights should also inspire these young people not to give up on their dreams. "Getting them to understand that you just don't quit when you run into that roadblock. Or you just don't give up and say it's not achievable if someone says you just can't do it."

By pursuing their dreams, Johnson says the young people are keeping Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream alive.