Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MLK Day On: Mayor Bloomberg's Breakfast at City Hall & Teen Vogue's Clothing Drive For Haiti

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the only national Holiday that honors one individual - a day of remembrance for the great Civil Rights Leader, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many welcome it as a much needed free "Day Off". Ever since the national holiday was instituted during my time as a student at Deerfield Academy and the school pegged it a "Day On", I have continued this tradition of a day of service to others.

The day began early, with an invitation by the city's first ever Chief Service Officer, Diahann Billings-Burford, to sing with an assortment of alums from my college a cappella group, Shades, at Mayor Bloomberg's annual MLK Day breakfast down at City Hall.

The event was attended by many distinguished guests - Former NYC Mayor David Dinkins (who was seated 5 chairs to my left in the front row), Senator Chuck Schumer, Council President Christine Quinn, and the Grammy award winning singer John Legend, among others.

Most notably, John Legend (a University of Pennsylvania graduate) did not attend to entertain the crowd with his glorious singing, but rather to speak passionately about the need to close the educational achievement gap in our city and our country. He spoke on the success of Charter schools and the NY state legislature's plans to cap the rate at which new charter schools can open in New York. He reminded us all that "education is the key to opportunity," as Melinda Gates put it, and that we cannot sit idly by while America's graduation and achievement rates continue to fall. I was immensely grateful for his powerful words and presence.

Shades closed the event with our famous rendition of "Amen/We Shall Overcome".

My "Day On" continued with pulling excess from my closet to donate to Teen Vogue's Clothing Drive for earthquake victims in Haiti.

Even in the middle of an incredibly tough recession, last week's tragedy illuminated just how fortunate and wealthy we Americans are compared to much of the rest of the world. My donations to Wyclef's Yele Haiti Foundation and the Red Cross were not enough which is why I was compelled to spend the day sacrificing some of my own material things for others. I cannot imagine being in their shoes right now. While dropping my donation off, I learned that Teen Vogue will be collecting clothing through the end of today as well. You can bring your donations to the Conde Nast building located at 4 Times Square (at the corner of 42nd & Broadway) and have security call extension x7420 upon your arrival.

Read Barack Obama's plea to America on "Why Haiti Matters" in Newsweek. Please do what you can; even the smallest amount will help in this immense time of need.

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