By Walid Sankari
On the day of Donald J. Trump’s presidential inauguration, dozens of community institutions across Chicago organized to participate in the National Day of Service, which saw service projects enacted to better local communities. Spearheaded by Chicago Cares, many local nonprofits including the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, recruited volunteers who may have never participated in community service to give back to Chicago.
The MLK National Day of Service is traditionally held on January 16, the official MLK Day, but this year CIOGC timed its Day of Service to coincide with the presidential inauguration so as to reimagine the day as one of optimism and local solidarity after a historically divisive election season.
One of these projects – a collaboration between South Side Community Services and CIOGC – saw meals provided by Zakat Foundation of America to over 300 elderly citizens in senior lodgings in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, who enjoyed a lunch of chicken, potatoes, and greens while conversing and listening to gospel music in the facility’s common areas. An interfaith and multiethnic collection of volunteers recruited from neighborhoods around the city embraced the spirit of service as they plated and handed out meals to the residents while exchanging stories and sharing perspectives on the news of the day.
“I think we’re in for an interesting four years,” said one senior citizen to another as the live broadcast of the inauguration played on a television in the common area. The incoming administration has raised a number of concerns among the nation’s elderly, who are eagerly awaiting to see how President Trump will handle vital services such as Medicare and Social Security.
“Regardless of who sits in the White House, it is necessary that we the people pick up the slack when it comes to looking after our own,” one of the volunteers mused as she plated mashed potatoes from behind the row of heating trays, occasionally glancing up at the television as America’s first African American president climbed into a military helicopter and waved goodbye to the nation.
His successor will inherit a slew of conflicts, some structural and some cultural, centered around racial justice. Many of these issues have been festering long after Dr. King’s rise to national prominence, most of them are rooted in sins that stretch back before his birth. Regardless of their sociological origins or the political volleyball seeking to assign blame to this individual or that institution, the symbolism of the day was not lost on many.
As tensions in society increase, we look around and we see an America not so unlike the America of King and Kennedy. Though King himself has long since passed, his ideals, his memory, and his methods will be carried by another generation of Americans as we take another step towards the ideal nation that we believe ourselves to be.