"(In) 1966, Dr. King at a Chicago news conference said, 'of all the forms of any quality, injustice and health is the most shocking and inhumane.' More than 50 years later, we can say the same thing, given what we've learned throughout this pandemic," said Day of Service organizer Todd Bernstein as he spoke to a group of volunteers and dignitaries on Monday morning.
The Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service is the largest in the country. But, in its 26th year, the event had to make some pivots as the nation continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.
Organizers had to come up with a completely new way of serving the community this year. They decided in March that they wanted to offer coronavirus testing. A partnership with the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium (BDCC) ensured that the event would have the volunteer health care professionals it needed.
"BDCC works to level a playing field that has never been level," said BDCC founder Dr. Ala Stanford.
The free tests were scheduled to take place at Girard College from 9 a.m. to noon. Both walk-up and drive-through options were available. No appointments were necessary.
People who got tested also received tote bags filled with PPE, masks, gloves, sanitizer and information on the coronavirus vaccine.
"Dr. King dedicated his life to advocating for human rights including healthcare equality. We are seeing this play out firsthand as COVID-19 claims more black lives than any other racial group," said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.
The testing site was the signature project in a day full of other service projects, with many of them seeking to help communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. President-Elect Joe Biden delivered a video message to the group this morning encouraging people to participate in a day of service by writing notes to first responders or reaching out to neighbors who may need help.
"What is going to take place here at Girard College is not just about engaging volunteers, it's about saving lives," said Bernstein. "Particularly for people living in underserved communities would not enjoy the same access to testing and now even to the vaccine."
Other events happening on Monday include:
- Reflection/discussion on Dr. King's legacy and racial justice, the COVID-19 pandemic, and access barriers to healthcare (3 pm)