- January 6, 2014
Post submitted by Hyacinth Alvaran, HRC Diversity Program Manager
The Human Rights Campaign is proud to partner with organizations in over 15 cities for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on January 20. Considered as a “day on, not a day off,” hundreds of HRC’s members, supporters, and allies will unite for MLK Day of Service events to bring attention to the issue of LGBT youth homelessness. MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday designated by Congress as a national day of service, and each year, hundreds of organizations participate.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. himself asked us, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” On this Day of Service, addressing LGBT youth homelessness is our answer to that question. Up to 40 percent of homeless and at-risk youth are LGBT. Many cite family rejection as an issue, and LGBT youth are eight times more likely to commit suicide if rejected by family members. As a result, LGBT homeless youth are among the most vulnerable in our country. Despite our advances in LGBT equality in other areas, we still live in a country of “two Americas”: one in which LGBT people are being treated with more love, acceptance, and dignity at home, at work, and in the community, and one in which they simply are not.
Dr. King too saw a society of “two Americas” in which, because of their race, people were denied equal employment opportunities, quality education, and access to livable & affordable housing. This is still a reality today for many people because of their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other facets of their identity. The intersections of our issues are still very much alive and relevant, and that is why, on this Day of Service, we echo Dr. King’s call to unite and achieve his vision of “beloved community” in which each person can achieve their full potential in one America.
As a national leader for HRC’s participation in this Day of Service, I was excited to catch a glimpse of this vision of “beloved community” and “one America.” I participated directly in the Day of Service in Washington, D.C. on the weekend of President Obama’s inauguration, and nationally, I supported hundreds of volunteers across nine cities as we partnered with organizations that serve LGBT homeless youth, organized donation drives, assembled care packages for these youth, and discussed ways in which volunteers can continue to remain involved. In Washington, D.C., I was moved not only by the bustle of over 200 volunteers who assembled almost 450 care packages, but also by their eagerness to listen to the experiences of an African American transgender youth who used to be homeless until she found a place with our service partner. From Austin, TX, I was moved by the story of an 8-year-old girl who came to volunteer with her parents, and, in the safety of that environment, came out for the first time in public as transgender. From Portland, OR, I was moved by the mother of one of our local leaders who, upon finding out that we were going to be short on bags for the care packages, commenced to make several more bags herself and to knit scarves to put in these care packages. And from Phoenix, AZ, I was moved by pictures of thousands of clothing and toiletries that were donated, filling the newly founded local service agency that we partnered with from wall to wall.
I am excited to take part in MLK Day of Service again, and I am eager for you to join us.
To get involved in an HRC MLK Day of Service event near you, please visit www.hrc.org/mlkdayofservice. I am also eager to hear more about how our communities are uniting on the both the national and local levels to address the issue of LGBT youth homelessness. From now until January 20th, stay tuned to the HRC Blog as our members, supporters, and allies share their stories about why they are participating in MLK Day of Service, and the incredible work that we are doing together to take another step towards Dr. King's vision of “beloved community” and “one America.”