Community members came together Monday, Jan. 21, to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. through songs, speeches and service projects.
Y-Serve hosted its annual Community Outreach Day to celebrate King and his mission of selfless service. According to the Y-Serve website, the event was meant to unite both BYU and local communities in a “celebration of giving.” The event was centered around King’s quote, “Life’s most urgent and persistent question is, ‘What are we doing for others?’”
The event began with a cultural celebration led by the Unity Gospel Choir under the direction of Debra Bonner. The choir sang upbeat renditions of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and “Better” by Hezekiah Walker. The Unity Gospel Choir consists of a group of performers from different cultures, races and religious backgrounds whose mission is to help bring souls unto Christ. As the choir sang and the audience swayed and clapped, pictures of King flashed across the screens above them.
BYU student Déborah Aléxis, vice president of the Women of Color Club on campus, spoke first and shared the effect of her experiences from participating in the Civil Rights Seminar in 2018.
“I stand because of the back-breaking, painstaking foundational work that civil rights activists have done for me,” Aléxis said. “I would be remiss to remain in my ignorance as I profit — as I benefit — off the sacrifice that they have made.”
Throughout her speech, Aléxis read journal entries from her time in the seminar, emphasizing King’s practice of a social gospel — the practice of Christian faith with a focus on social reform. She said people must show their love for Christ through their interactions with others.
“If you file through the opening these pioneers of social equality created, let us further open the door and eventually take it off its hinges,” Aléxis said.
BYU international advisor Angela Baxter also spoke at the event. She shared the influence of King in her life and her story of coming to BYU as a woman of color.
“Dr. King knew that strength and unity came from a community of working together as a whole, and I truly believe that to be true,” Baxter said. “If you want to change the world, it will have to start in one heart at a time, starting with your own.”
The cultural celebration ended with two more numbers from the choir, including an emphasized message from one of the members that “wherever you’re coming from, the best is yet to come.”
Those in attendance split into different areas of the Wilkinson Student Center to participate in service projects. Service projects ranged from making hygiene kits for girls in underdeveloped countries to painting toy cars for children.
BYU sophomore Sam Jensen said his choice to attend the event was because of the importance of serving everyone.
“Any opportunity that I have to serve somebody, I want to take that,” Jensen said. “I felt like this was a good opportunity to serve lots of people sort of all at once.”
Not only was the event an opportunity for community members to participate in service, it was also a chance for BYU students to volunteer with Y-Serve. According to Y-Serve Director Chris Crippen, over 300 students volunteer with Y-serve to help run events like this and carry out other service projects.
BYU student and Y-Serve volunteer Kimberly Petersen said she likes the idea of many people coming together to show love.
“In a big sense, it’s really what gives purpose best, those interactions we have with people,” Petersen said. “Those interactions of love where we are serving one another and reaching out and trying to make a difference.”
For more information on Y-Serve programs and how to get involved, visit yserve.byu.edu.