In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everyday this week a City Year San José/Silicon Valley staff or Corps Member will share how the words and actions of Martin Luther King, Jr. has impacted their life. Today, Corps Member Laura Peters reflects on a social justice project she took on while she was a college student.
My supervisor, Nadia, had invited me to stay on campus for the January break during my junior year at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. I was to assist her in planning the January freshman orientation program, as well as take on a “special project,” of which I knew very little. My only knowledge at the time was that the project would need to be finished and ready to display by Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2009.
My task was to organize the most important dates in the timeline pages into a magnificent Excel spreadsheet. Each sentence or paragraph described a defining moment in an American minority group’s history. The spreadsheet of events would eventually be printed and pasted to black paper that measured almost 100 ft long, and hung along the wall in my campus’s student center.
Although at first the job seemed more like an art project than anything else, within a few hours I was completely engrossed in the information I was sorting. I learned more in a week about the social movements in our country than I had ever learned in a social studies class in high school or college.
As I sat on the floor of my campus center cutting and pasting the timeline information, professors and visitors on campus would ask me about my work. I was excited and proud to explain my project to them.
I sorted, cut, and pasted over 300 pieces of information for my timeline project. Each and every one of these events inspired me. The progress that our country has made since its birth is astounding, although we still have an enormous amount of work to do in order to ensure equality for every single person in our country.
Martin Luther King, Jr. day now has special significance to me.
For every person who believes that violence is the way to make change, there are brilliant souls like Martin Luther King, Jr. who have proved them wrong.
The project that I completed in 2009 will always be a reminder to me that a small group of individuals can make an immense impact on our society, and inspires me to follow in their footsteps, because our work is not nearly finished.
Laura Peters, Corps Member CYSJ