25th annual MLK Day of Service highlights the importance of being counted

Cherri Gregg
January 08, 2020 - 2:44 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Girard College’s high school choir hyped up the crowd Wednesday for the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service.

On MLK Day — Jan. 20 — 150,000 volunteers are expected to participate in more than 1,800 community service projects throughout the region. The theme is all about being counted. 

This year’s theme coincides with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted the right to vote regardless of gender. Todd Bernstein, lead organizer for the day of service, said this theme is particularly relevant in 2020 — an election year — especially when it comes to being counted in history.

“The role of black women was so critical to achieving the right to vote — ironically, not for black women, not for black men at the time,” Bernstein added. 

Their right to vote was not solidified until the Civil Rights Act of 1965 — an effort led by Dr. King. The Philly MLK Day of Service will also emphasize the importance of the contributions made by black women to the women’s suffrage movement. 

Bernstein hopes to educate present-day voters, too, about changes to voting laws that make it easier to cast an absentee ballot or register closer to Election Day. 

“There are incredible election law changes in the commonwealth that more people need to know about,” he said.

Bernstein said they will also shine a light on the 2020 census through their signature project at Girard College: Volunteers will create ballot boxes that will be distributed to 500 census workers for use when they go door-to-door.

He hopes the 25th annual event embodies King.

“(We’re) celebrating but also trying to live out the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, who was a man of action 365 days of the year.”