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Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Kansas City offers time for reflection and service

Three people sit in the foreground silhouetted against a large projection screen where the closeup face of Martin Luther King Jr. is projected.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Visitors at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center watch a video about Martin Luther King Jr., following a nature walk.

Organizations and nonprofits in the Kansas City area honored the slain civil rights leader by volunteering at different agencies and getting outside to connect with nature.

Rosetta Davis carefully walked along a slush-covered sidewalk Monday morning with about 75 others who had gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

They were enjoying the two-and-a-half mile path to the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center, listening to Nova Clarke from the National Wildlife Refuge detail some of the natural sights along Brush Creek.

“I definitely wanted to take this time to educate myself but then also give back and do something that was good for the community around me because that’s what Dr. King was all about,” Davis said.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Kansas City reflected the national trend to mark the holiday as a day of volunteer service.

Organizations and nonprofits scheduled a variety of events and service projects, which started over the weekend and will continue through Tuesday to honor the slain civil rights leader. Others simply took time to reflect or share the importance of the day.

A woman in dark green clothes walks in front of a group of around 75 people on a snowy landscape.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Nova Clarke, with the National Wildlife Refuge, leads a nature walk along Brush Creek on Monday as part of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day of service in the metro.

Overland Park resident Ben Burton brought his wife and daughter to Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Kansas City to teach their 6-year-old about King.

His wife Tiffany said they were looking for a statue or landmark in the area to show their daughter an image of King.

“I want to introduce her to who Martin Luther King, Jr. is and wanted to just do something to commemorate his honor and his legacy,” she said.

“This is perfect,” she added. “We saw this picture and we decided to come to the park.”

Man in red coat uses a cell phone to photograph three people posing on a large red and blue, three-dimensional sign that reads "Dr. MLK, Jr."
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
John Coler, right, volunteers to take a photo of the Burton family. Ben, Tiffany and their daughter Quinn pose in front of the sign at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Kansas City.

They found a bystander to take a photo of them while they posed with the colorful, large letters that spell out King’s name at the park’s entrance.

Scattered through the Kansas City metro, employees from Garmin spent their day off volunteering at different agencies or organizations.

“The people at Garmin, we really believe in giving back to society which also helps us in our inner consciousness and also helps our children see what we’re doing for the community, so they can also learn and step up with the same help,” said Suyash Prakash, a programmer with the technology company headquartered in Olathe.

Prakash was one of thousands of the company's employees who spent part of their day volunteering. He and a large contingent were assigned to Mission Southside in Olathe.

He said he can relate to the day of service that Martin Luther King Jr. Day has become.

Room full of masked people use cups to pull rice from green bins and fill plastic bags.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Employees from Garmin and their family members spent part of their day of service as volunteers at Mission Southside, filling bags of rice, baking cookies and organizing supplies for families in need.

“It resonates in terms of helping people raise our voice for the right cause and helping people live their lives better and help society,” Prakash said.

On the other side of the metro, Bill Coe, the director of Green Acres Urban Farm, told an audience at the Bruce R. Watkins Center that unity remains a lasting theme from King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”

“We came to overcome all the obstacles that face us today in our community,” he said. “Now is our today.”

Sustainability, Coe said, is also a lasting theme that from King’s work.

“The body is the vehicle that allows us to navigate through life with joy.”

Coe correlated a healthy mind and body to the overall social health of the community .

“So we, the people must change to overcome in 2022,” Coe said. “We all are connected directly or indirectly. So when we honor ourselves, by honoring others in our community, we show unity.”

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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