On Martin Luther King Jr. Day of 2019, East Side House’s Mitchel Community Center hosted its 3rd Annual Keeping the Dream Alive Youth Forum. The event was open to the entire community and welcomed more than 100 youth participants. The event focused on addressing issues of diversity and leadership in today’s culture, using lessons of the past. Althea Stevens, Administrative Director of Community-based Programs who organized the event, explained that the event uses MLK as a framework for civic engagement. The core questions of the youth forum were, “How are we keeping the Dream alive? How are we loving and supporting each other? How are we serving our community?” Stevens explains.
The event opened with icebreaker games to help introduce the forum’s themes of non-judgement, inclusion, and the beauty of difference. Workshops were organized for elementary, middle, and high school grade levels. Each session helped students express their feelings about their own dreams and how to navigate prejudice.
Highlights from the event included a keynote presentation by members of St. John’s University black fraternities and sororities, who spoke about their experiences attending and graduating from college. Older students had the opportunity to learn from former gang members and hip hop artists, while younger students learned about the role of music in the Civil Rights Movement.
During the event, participants were encouraged to come up with their own action plan for how to keep their own dreams alive. Participants were challenged to identify small ways to help their friends and community members toward their dreams as well. After all, the true meaning of the day was to show how a community can work together to life the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Althea Stevens was especially impressed with the turnout this year, on one of the coldest days of the year. However, she says, “the event would be a success even if only one student showed up. It’s less about how many kids come and more about the impact on each student.”