While celebrations across the country commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 18, will be different this year – given the inability to hold large in-person gatherings due to COVID-19 – there are still ways for people to make an impact at the local level. The MLK federal holiday was designated as a National Day of Service by Congress in 1994.
This year’s annual Big Sunday’s MLK Day Block Party – historically a vibrant day-long celebration filled with live music, dancing, food, art and community activities – is going virtual. And while people won’t be able to join together in person to support the event’s clothing collection component or celebrate King’s legacy, there are still numerous ways that people can participate and help others, according to Big Sunday founder David Levinson.
“Our mission is that we connect people through helping with the idea that the world is not full of ‘haves and have nots,’ it’s full of ‘haves and have mores.’ Absolutely everyone has some way that they can help somebody else and we all have to look out for one another,” Levinson said. “I feel this year more than ever, what Dr. King fought for, what Dr. King stood for, what Dr. King hoped for is more important than ever to remember.”
People interested in participating in the free virtual celebration can sign up at bigsundayorg.wufoo.com/forms/k18fodt405zhbgy. During the hour-long digital event starting at 11 a.m. on Jan. 18, attendees can participate in a variety of activities, including listening to music and having the opportunity to dance, as well as discovering what they have in common with a handful of strangers when the virtual platform randomly places them in breakout rooms for a novel take on the party’s annual “something in common” project.
“[Eight] months after the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement and all the questions that it raised … and where we are in our country right now, I think it’s very important to take a moment to respect one another and to honor this day together,” Levinson said. “A lot of what we do is just people working together from different worlds and different backgrounds toward a common goal.”
“I always say, whoever you are, whatever you do, there’s always someone out there who can use your help,” he added.
In addition to donating new clothing for those in need by dropping them off at the Big Sunday office or using Big Sunday’s Target registry, people can sponsor a laundry kit or a winter SOS kit for $15 to further help getting essentials to those in need. And because Big Sunday likes to include a personal note in each laundry kit, people are encouraged to make cards with kind messages and deliver them to the Big Sunday office by Jan. 20 at noon.
In West Hollywood, community members can make an impact locally with a donation drive to benefit the city’s homeless initiative in partnership with West Hollywood Elementary and Friends of West Hollywood Elementary. Due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, this year’s Day of Service will take place as a virtual donation drive instead of an in-person event and will run from Saturday, Jan. 16, to Sunday, Jan. 31.
Community members can participate by sending donations – including monetary and gift card donations for new socks, blankets and sleeping bags – to City Hall from Jan. 16-31.
Donations can be made online at secure.qgiv.com/for/homeless. Donations of physical gift cards or personal checks made out to “City of West Hollywood” can be mailed to West Hollywood City Hall, 8300 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA, 90069.
The West Hollywood Homeless Initiative partners closely with nonprofit service providers, the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station and Los Angeles County agencies to provide services aimed at reducing homelessness and supporting community members who are experiencing homelessness.
In tandem with this year’s event, a larger service learning project with West Hollywood Elementary and the Friends of West Hollywood Elementary will also include virtual classroom visits from members of the West Hollywood City Council on Jan. 19, as well as the school’s “Lifting Our Voices” art contest, which aims to encourage students to reflect upon King’s life, philosophy and the impact of the Civil Rights movement through their own artistic expression. All artwork submissions will be shared digitally with the community, and the winning artwork will be displayed on a fence art banner sponsored by the city of West Hollywood during Black History Month in February.
The city is also encouraging donations to the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s youth center, which has posted a “CARE 4 Youth Essentials” wish list on Amazon at lalgbtcenter.org/care4youth.
The city would have hosted its ninth annual clothing drive for the center this month, but due to COVID-19, West Hollywood is instead encouraging virtual donations of needed supplies that will be distributed to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth who are experiencing homelessness.
Another way for people to give back is to serve as a volunteer. To learn about local opportunities with West Hollywood’s community partners, visit weho.org/volunteer. For additional information about virtual and in-person volunteer opportunities to address critical needs, visit California Volunteers at californiavolunteers.ca.gov/get-involved/covid-19, Volunteer Match at volunteermatch.org or L.A. Works at laworks.com.
For more information about MLK Day of Service activities and recognition events, visit nationalservice.gov/serve-your-community/mlk-day-service.
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