In a recent newsletter shared across 11 states, Chris Masingill, Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority, salutes DOT USA's TeachUp! AmeriCorps Program.
When the Delta Regional Authority was signed into law eleven years ago, President Clinton and members of Congress saw a wrong and were motivated to make it right. But it really began long before that. You probably know that in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference organized the "Poor People's Campaign" to address issues of economic injustice, demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States. And every day, in every community across the Delta, that universal courage of the working class and the inspiration of Dr. King continue to be seen and felt. I commend the people in our region who embody this legacy in our small businesses, our churches, and our city halls. I am humbled by your work and your commitment to your community and the Delta region.
A Legacy of Service
This month, we will celebrate the life and legacy of MLK. Without question, Dr. King's impact on the Delta Region is seen in every community I have visited over the last eighteen months. I have had the privilege not only to see the influence of Dr. King's legacy, but also to know how far we still have to go. It was Dr. King who taught us that, "everybody can be great, because anybody can serve" and it is in the spirit of that statement that I will join President Obama along with federal agencies, organizations, business owners and others to make January 16, 2012 a day ON - not a day off - serving the people of Pulaski County. I hope you will also join me on MLK Day by finding service opportunities in your own community.
It is an occasion for you and me to admit and confront the difficulties that the people of the Delta face, to consider the possibility that we live in a world where hardship and injustice still exist and recognize, in today's America, the fundamental truth is that we still have work to do. MLK Day as a National Day of Service is part of United We Serve, the President's national call to service initiative. It appeals to Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.
So what will you do to make a difference in your community? The call to serve can be answered in many ways, big and small, once a year and everyday - and we are all a part of the picture. You could:
- Bake cookies for the battered women's shelter.
- Give your community center a fresh coat of paint.
- Serve dinner to homeless members of your community.
The National Service Movement and the DRA
I would be remiss, also, if I did not recognize that National Service is more than a once a year opportunity. It is an ongoing campaign, prevalent in the Delta Region. AmeriCorps Programs supported by our sister federal agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service, are found throughout the Delta. Just like health, education, and economic development: recognizing that National Service is a key component to the future of the Delta - matters. From national programs like Teach For America's Mississippi Delta site and City Year, Inc's sites in Arkansas and Louisiana to local initiatives such as Poplar Bluff's Promise in Missouri and Selma Digital Opportunity in Alabama - AmeriCorps volunteers are a growing network of "boots on the ground" across the region.
With that in mind, the Delta Regional Authority did not pass up the chance to match an AmeriCorps grant this past year by making a $360,000 investment in the Delta TeachUp! Technology Empowerment Program. This workforce development project focusing on distressed counties in Mississippi, will match an AmeriCorps National grant which enables Digital Opportunity Trust to recruit, train, deploy, pay and supervise 106 Mississippi residents as for a one-year internship. These TeachUp! Technology Interns work in public schools, WIN Job Centers and other community sites. Their goal is to improve the digital literacy, computer skills and employability of 10,000 adults, 50,000 students and 3,000 teachers.
We do not think about freedom without thinking of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We do not think of equality or civil rights without considering what he would say about the 21st Century. Another lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans, Marian Wright Edelman has written, "Service is the rent we pay for living." As we approach MLK day this year, I can't help but believe this is the kind of impact that we must reach for as we strive to put the Delta first. This is the legacy that we must leave.
Yours in Service,