After receiving dozens of nominations and thousands of online votes, Taproot recently named James as our Pro Bono Role Model of the Year for his leadership and commitment to serving others. James will be a regular contributor to the Pro Bono Junkie’s Blog throughout the year, and we are pleased to bring you on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day his inaugural post, in which James shares how pro bono service happens in his community during this special holiday.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a holiday of peace. While many people find it an opportunity to relax, others proactively spread peace through their communities in the most effective way possible: service. In many parts of our world, our nations, and our towns, peace is not easy. Peace came and will come through the sacrifice and the passionate work of many. On this very righteous holiday, I want to share a story with all of you of how one government, one business, and numerous people have come together to improve their community in the Lake Merritt area of Oakland, California.
The ethic of service in Oakland
Oakland is a city where MLK day is taken seriously, and Lake Merritt is one of its communities with that unique underdog spirit in which empowered citizens are always giving back. I’ve seen gardeners self-organize work parties to keep the vibrant, hidden jewel that is Morcom Rose Garden alive. I’ve seen volunteer artists paint the many benches around Lake Merritt with words and drawings of peace. I’ve seen some of the many runners around the lake stop their daily workouts to use the lake’s self-cleaning boxes to scoop the trash from it. And on this Martin Luther King Day in Lakeside Park, City of Oakland Parks Supervisor Tora Rocha, Tech Liminal small business owner Anca Mosoiu, and an expected 400 volunteers will plant trees, weed, mulch, and dig a drainage trench for 10 different gardens. Tech Liminal, a technology company in downtown Oakland, is providing their professional social media services for free on this day by taking photos and spreading them on Facebook and Flickr, so volunteers can feel that sense accomplishment that they wholeheartedly deserve. This urban ecosystem where city employees, local businesses, and citizens can work together is a true model of a thriving community that would make Martin Luther King, Jr. proud.
Whatever flavor of service you are doing today–be it cleaning gardens, helping the impoverished, or supporting humanitarian causes–your work is spreading peace in your community, and you should be proud. Peace, though, is needed every day, and the only way that can happen is if service happens all the time. Let’s challenge ourselves this year to help others beyond this one day and make it twice a year, or every month, or even possibly every week. And what better time to start than today! Let’s boot up and glove on! Time to make our community and our world a better place today.
James is the Pro Bono Role Model of the Year for the Taproot Foundation.