by Sue Ann Rybak
Roughly 400 people filled the Unitarian Society of Germantown (USG), 6511 Lincoln Dr., to participate in 25th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service on Jan. 20.
Some of the service projects organized by USG included going to nearby public schools, such as Houston Elementary to help general organization and cleaning, preparing and delivering winter essential kits for local seniors as part of UU House Outreach Program, making ceramic bowls to be used at the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (PIHN)’s Empty Bowl Dinner fundraiser, making soup at various sites, making PB & J sandwiches, making birthday cards for seniors, participating in letter writing campaign and more.
Before going to their service projects, volunteers attended a non-denominational worship service in sanctuary at 9 a.m.
Rev. Kent Matthies, minister at USG, thanked everyone for coming and introduced Rev. Mark Tyler, pastor of the historic Mother Bethel AME Church, who spoke about the day before Dr. King’s assassination, when he gave his famous “I have been to the Mountain Top” speech.
Dr. King was at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968 speaking to the community Tyler said, “trying to ensure their resolve to stand with black sanitation workers, who were losing their lives due to inner city working conditions.
“Dr. King had moved from the fight for the right to vote in public accommodations in the hands of Jim Crow ‘separate, but equal,’ but now he was moving into things folks said were ‘off limits to him.’ Talking about institutional racism and the battle for wages and good jobs. He was talking about money now.”
Tyler said talking about these things was even more dangerous then talking about Civil Rights. That day, he talked about the need for the community to develop “Dangerous Unselfishness.” Unselfishness at the risk of personal loss.
Matthies said many of the issues King worked to overcome are still relevant today. He said a year before his murder, King spoke about “the three-headed monster of poverty, racism and militarism.” He said many people in the Civil Rights Movement thought King should stay out of those issues and focus on racial justice.
However, King believed they were intertwined.
Matthies said one of King’s last campaign’s was working for a minimum wage of $2 a hour, which would be $16.70 today.
“Our minimum wage in Pennsylvania today is $7.25 which a poverty wage,” he said.
Besides participating in the service projects, he said many volunteers attended a “McRaise the Wage” Town Hall organized by State Senator Art Haywood and POWER Interfaith.
After the town hall, attendees marched to the McDonald’s, 29 E. Chelten Ave. in Germantown, where they held a rally outside in an effort to get the owner, Derek Giacomantonio, to raise the wage for employees to $15 an hour.
“As a broad-based community movement, we raise our voices in favor of a living wage. A day of good, dignified work should be matched with a good, dignified wage,” said Matthies, whose church is also a member of POWER Interfaith.
“Even if you can’t get out and march, [USG’s] Martin Luther King Day of Service has something for everyone. It is so inclusive,” he said. “We have children and adults of all ages. We have people of all ethnic and social backgrounds making healthy food, made with love for people who don’t have enough food. Volunteers cleaning up the streets. If you have trouble getting around, you can sit and write a letter or make a card. It’s about sharing experiences and building relationships.”