For the second consecutive year, a group of staff and board members, young people and supporters had the privilege to spend Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with Bishop Kermit Newkirk and his congregation in the Harold O. Davis Memorial Baptist Church in the Logan neighborhood of North Philadelphia.
While I have been inside the church on many occasions over the past few years for PYB board meetings and for conversations with Bishop Newkirk about our shared desire to build a world class youth basketball and education center on the Logan Triangle next to the HOD Church,King Day Monday was quite different.
Sitting inside of the Church’s sanctuary listening to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech was powerful. I have heard and watched the speech many times. I have reflected upon its meaning, both its relevance at that moment in our nation’s dark history as well as its applicability today. However, the depth of Dr. King’s words and emotions hit me much harder sitting inside the sanctuary of an African-American church, in a neighborhood which and with people who have experienced trauma and oppression. Yes, this struggle is still very real and relevant.
I think everyday about the appropriate role for myself, a white Jewish man who feels a strong kinship to this struggle. It is not my struggle. But, I consider myself an ally and an advocate. I also think about the way in which PYB, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and intergenerational coalition of people can be not just a positive youth development organization, but also a community empowerment organization to provide professional opportunities through our hiring and procurement practices, internships, committee service, and more.
Social change is hard work. It is complex. We as a community can and must dig in together.