Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned a community where people have reconciled their differences, equal justice is afforded to all, and individuals have the ability to reach their full potential. The path leading us to this “Beloved Community,” as he called it, is a path of service, for in serving one’s community, economic and social divides begin to erode and eventually disappear. In other words, a greater understanding – a compassionate love – of our brothers and sisters can be realized through selfless service.
On February 4, 1968, Dr. King encouraged an Atlanta congregation to join him on this path:
“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart.”
Next Monday Americans will come together to celebrate the life and work of Dr. King. As the only federal holiday designated a National Day of Service, MLK Day is an opportunity to connect with members of our community while serving the greater good.
As many Americans continue to struggle from the economic crash of 2008, there seems no better time to bridge the economic and social divides than to join a group of community members on January 20th, with heart, to advance Dr. King’s dream of opportunity for all. There are myriad projects throughout the Triangle – from packaging meals to literacy kit assembly to repainting classrooms to restoring a public nature preserve. Local activities can be found at AllforGood.org, the national volunteer registry partnering with the Corporation for National and Community Service.
In Durham, Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC) is organizing a team of staff and volunteers to build and clean hiking trails at our Horton Grove Nature Preserve in honor of Dr. King's legacy. There are currently four miles of hiking trails winding along perennial streams that snake their way through lush groves of mature oak, hickory, and beech trees. There are also two small meadows that provide habitat for a multitude of birds, insects, and small mammals. Construction is underway to build an additional six miles of trails linking to Historic Stagville.
Opened to the public in 2012, our 700-acre Horton Grove Nature Preserve was formerly part of the Stagville Plantation held by the Bennehan-Cameron families, whose plantation holdings were among the largest in the antebellum South, with over 30,000 acres and nearly 900 enslaved peoples. Today, Historic Stagville, adjacent to the preserve, maintains the remaining buildings, which include the Bennehan and Horton homes, enslaved quarters, and the Great Barn.
TLC’s permanent protection and our community’s stewardship of this majestic landscape serves as a memorial to those peoples who came before us – the indigenous Eno and the Occaneechi and the Africans brought here against their will and forced to work the lands. As an Historic Stagville docent said on a recent tour of the enslaved quarters, “We believe it is important to celebrate the lives of those who lived here – the families that loved each other and brought children into the world, because they, like all humans, had hopes for a better life. A better future.”
On this upcoming National Day of Service, let us not forget those who came before us and the wise words of Dr. King: “And so even though we face difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”
TLC encourages our community members to “Make it a Day On – Not a Day Off” on January 20th. We hope you will consider joining us at Horton Grove from 9:30 am – 12:00 pm for a short hike, followed by trail work. For more information and to register, please visit our Eventbrite page.