MLK Day 2009: A Great Day for Community Service and Social Media
Saturday, January 17, 2009 was one of the most fun and most satisfying days I’ve had since I moved to Florida and started serving in AmeriCorps. On that day, my AmeriCorps program, Literacy AmeriCorps Palm Beach County, put on a special service project that we had put together as part of the nationwide Martin Luther King, Jr. National Day of Service effort. Volunteer Florida, the arm of the Florida state government to which our AmeriCorps program is accountable, was offering $2,000 mini-grants for the purpose of holding MLK Day service projects, and we got one of them. We used ours to paint a mural with a slightly shortened version of the King Center‘s Pledge of Nonviolence on it (please note: that last link is to a PDF file), and to unveil it in a little festival in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, with crafts and other activities for kids. Afterward, we gave the mural to the City of Riviera Beach, leaving it at the back of the stage in the gymnasium at Wells Recreation Complex, the same park where we had painted it and had held the festival. We painted the mural on January 10th, and had the unveiling and festival on the 17th.
The good people behind the National Day of Service effort used new media in a remarkable way during the entire three-day weekend. They invited a bunch of people who would be volunteering at National Day of Service events to serve as E-Reporters and E-Photo Journalists. The job of the E-Reporters was to use their mobile devices to send live tweets at least hourly from their volunteer projects, reporting on what was happening and the results of the projects. E-Reporters had to tag all their tweets with #MLKDay, so that the person running the official MLKDay.gov Twitter account could retweet all these updates using that official account. The E-Photo Journalists’ job was to send photos at least hourly from their volunteer projects to the MLK Day Flickr account.
I served as an E-Reporter, and I had a great time doing it. On the Wednesday before MLK Day, there was a training conference call to get all the E-Reporters and E-Photo Journalists on the same page regarding what we were supposed to be doing, and to answer any technical questions. It was during the conference call that I learned that major national news media outlets would be watching the Twitter and Flickr pages to see what was happening around the country. I was floored to learn this. “So ‘The Man’ understands social media and recognizes that the information posted in that space can be important and valid?” I thought to myself. Wow. Just to be clear, I think this is a good thing. I was thrilled to know that my tweets might be going out to a much wider audience than my 100 or so existing followers (I love you all, though!). I was proud to be a part of the social media sphere, and excited that I was not only helping to create publicity for the National Day of Service events, but also helping to show the uninitiated what the power of social media can do.
A local TV news reporter and cameraman and at least two newspaper reporters and photographers covered our festival, too, which still excites me, but I thought the E-Reporting was cooler. With Twitter, I was the reporter, and so were many other volunteers at other events. Now, on the afternoon of MLK Day, tweets are still pouring in from individuals involved in community service projects all over the country. It’s so powerful and so heartwarming to “see” (really, read about) so many people doing so much good. Come to think of it, I’m not just proud of my social media sphere – I’m proud of my country for answering President-Elect Barack Obama’s call to service with such an amazing outpouring of effort and generosity. Hooray for community service!
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everybody. I hope you enjoyed the day and did something to serve others during your time off. In the words of Dr. King, “Everyone can be great, because anyone can serve.”