Amid thousands of people volunteering their time for a Day of Service, two events invited people to stop working and think about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
At Girard College and South Philadelphia High School, hundreds of people participated in structured discussions about race and the legacy of Dr. King.
They split into 10 groups, sat in circles and went over the “I Have A Dream” speech, one line at a time. Then they questioned each other — strangers, all of them — as to whether Dr. King’s peaceful vision of unity has ever, or will ever, come to fruition.
The forum was organized in part by Harris Sokoloff of the Penn Project for Civic Engagement – he heard people connecting Dr. King’s speech with President Obama’s “Hope” campaign.
“People recognize that a lot of progress has been made,” said Sokoloff. “At the same time they live with racism every day and are hurt by it, and so they are hopeful and discouraged and thinking how we can make more progress, and they’re not sure.”
Erica Casanova, a freshman at Edison High, said the speech still resonates.
“We’re still united as one whole state and country and whatever we are. We’re all together as one, ” said Edison, who had never read the entire speech before. “It reached me hard. I almost teared up as I read it — it helped me understand what he went through when he was young.”
While younger people talked mostly about racial unity, the forum mediators said adult participants were more concerned with economic disparities and education opportunities.