By Repair the World Fellow Emily Benoit
On Martin Luther King (MLK) days in previous years I spent my time participating in service projects with local organizations to build community parks, work in soup kitchens, and do direct service.
However, working with Repair The World (RTW) and on the Civic Works Community Lot Team, I experienced my first reflective MLK day. During this time, my team and I discussed our experiences with the Civil Rights Movement and reflected on the meaning and impact of our direct service work. Together, we viewed “Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1985.” The first portion of the PBS documentary explored the stories of Emmett Till and The Montgomery Bus Boycott as well as interviewed important Civil Rights individuals and organizers.
After intense learning at RTW orientation about community organizing and taking initial steps to organize within Baltimore, I began to see the Civil Rights movement through a new lens. I thought the Civil Rights Movement ended and equal rights between races was a true reality, but living in Baltimore and listening to the stories of the people here, I now know this as a fallacy. Even amongst the groups of people I work with the inequality is evident. We all come from different backgrounds, each oppressed by different elements of society, yet together we transform vacant lots into beautiful places.
Reflecting on the work of the past with the work of the future, I understand more deeply that this country creates inherent barriers to separate groups of people. While working on the Community Lot Team and as a RTW Fellow I firmly believe that our background doesn’t matter in our ability to come together and work as a team to transform the city one vacant lot at a time.