By Michelle Braun, president and CEO, United Way of Northeast Florida
I have been drawn to and inspired by Dr King’s quotes since my very earliest memories. One of his quotes — “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” — has stuck with me since the first time I read it in school.
My whole life has been guided by this message, which is reinforced by so many people — by my family, my friends, my church, my teachers, my colleagues and by those I work with in the community. Dr. King’s messages and the people I’ve met along this journey, people working hard to reach their potential, are a constant reminder why my teammates and I do our work at United Way.
What are we doing for others? What are we doing to make sure every person in our community can fulfill their American Dream?
The truth is we’re not there yet. The dream Dr. King yearned for is still not a reality for too many people right here in Northeast Florida. Forty percent of people in Duval County do not earn enough to pay for basic survival expenses like rent, child care and insurance – despite working multiple jobs. 40 percent! Think about it – more than one in every three people are struggling. Dr. King preached about economic disparities in our communities as the root of many racial disparities. He also reminded us of the urgency of now.
We must carry his torch and continue the work together. Because when so many people are struggling, our community and our country cannot thrive.
There are real, significant ways we can carry this torch together and make significant change. A good place to start is by building an understanding of our shared history and getting to know our neighbors. United Way is committed to helping our community do just that.
There are many incredible stories in communities all over Northeast Florida. Have you been “Out East” recently? There is a rich history and hardworking people in the historic Eastside of Jacksonville who love their neighborhood and have a dream for it. Community members formed the Historic Eastside Community Development Corporation and developed plans based on their dream.
United Way, along with our partners at LiftJax, the Eastside Brotherhood, LIFE (Leadership is for Everyone, Inc.), the Melanin Market, UNF Center for Urban Education and Policy, Ability Housing and Oakland Terrace Apartments, In the Word International Church and the Kids Hope Alliance, to name a few, have joined together to provide a series of opportunities for us to come Out East and learn more about this community.
We believe Dr. King’s message and spirit deserve to be honored and celebrated beyond Jan. 20. His legacy has the power to drive change not just one day a year but 365 days a year. We invite you to join us for a series of events over the next four months. The “Roots and Rebuild: Activating the Dream” initiative begins Jan. 20 with the 40th Annual MLK Grand Holiday Parade and a kickoff reception with local Civil Rights icon Rodney Hurst at In the Word International Church.
You can learn more about all upcoming events on the official webpage: unitedwaynefl.org/mlk
Details will be updated and events may be added.
Please share this message with others. Pick one (or more than one!) thing on this list, and come visit this community. Let’s fulfill Dr. King’s vision; let’s answer his question by working together to learn more about our neighbors and work together to build a community of opportunity where everyone has hope and can reach their full potential. I look forward to seeing you out there.