Following in the Footsteps

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Originally founded in 1996 by Rev. Jesse Jackson as a merger between the National Rainbow Coalition and Operation PUSH, the Greenville chapter of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition was organized in the Upstate in 2003. The group’s first major undertaking was to ensure that Martin Luther King Jr. Day was observed as a holiday in Greenville County, an effort that was realized in 2006. Today, Rainbow PUSH Greenville holds an annual King Legacy Week, which includes a series of activities and events surrounding King’s life, work, and ideology.   

The 2018 King Legacy Week includes four main events that seek to bring positive changes to the Greenville community and encourage dialogue and involvement. The first event is the historically black college and university (HBCU) STEM Fair on Saturday, Jan. 13, which will give students an opportunity to connect with admissions representatives from 15 HBCUs and hear about higher education opportunities, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. There will also be presentations about internship and job opportunities that do not require four-year college degrees.   

Children in 4K through eighth grade are invited to attend the PUSHTECH2020 Hack-A-Thon on Monday, Jan. 15, which encourages young students to be engaged in technology and education through technology. Representatives from the Sylvan Learning Center will guide students in various computer games and coding activities. PUSHTECH2020 “aims to help bridge the digital divide between the majority and minority communities to help engage children in science and technology in a fun way,” says Davida Mathis, chairwoman of Rainbow PUSH Greenville.   

The Gospel of Social Justice Town Hall meeting will take place during the weekly Wednesday service at Long Branch Baptist Church on Jan. 17. This event aims to discuss the role of the church in social justice. Mathis explains, “We forget that Dr. King was first a preacher, and the other six days a week, he was working toward social justice. The Gospel of Social Justice aims to address what’s in the news right now and how the church can help some situations.” Topics to be covered include economic empowerment, police brutality, criminal justice reform, voter registration, and education, according to a press release.    

“The church needs to be thinking about social justice, and this event promotes that,” Mathis says, adding that there is disconnect between the #blacklivesmatter generation and her own because of a lack of communication, when in reality the issues are the same. The Gospel of Social Justice, she says, hopes to reopen that dialogue.   

The week will conclude with the 2018 King Legacy Gala on Jan. 20, with all proceeds going toward keeping the other Legacy Week events free of charge and open to the public. Mignon Clyburn, a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission and daughter of Rep. Jim Clyburn, will be the gala’s keynote speaker. Eustace Bennett, the first African-American police officer in the Greenville Police Department, and Asha Marie, a student who led the movement to rename Wade Hampton High School, will be recognized as Profiles in Courage honorees.   

Through the 2018 King Legacy Week, organizers hope to not only commemorate and continue the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but also promote community involvement and discourse about his teachings.  

“The overall goal for celebrating Dr. King is that we believe he was a visionary,” Mathis says. “We know that he had a deep love of God and the community, and that he was a highly educated and prepared person, but he used that great love, education, and mind that he had in service to the community through activism. So we say that love, education, and activism are our goals that we want to work toward through his example.” 

2018 King Legacy Week   

HBCU STEM Fair: Jan. 13, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Bethlehem Baptist Church Family Life Center, 4 Harrison Bridge Road, Simpsonville. Free admission   

PUSHTECH2020: Jan. 15, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., West End Community Development Center, 404 Vardry St. Free admission   

The Gospel of Social Justice Town Hall: Jan. 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Long Branch Baptist Church, 28 Bolt St. Free admission    

2018 King Legacy Gala: Jan. 20, 6-9 p.m., Embassy Suites Golf Resort and Convention Center, 670 Verdae Blvd. $60/person  

For more information, visit rainbowpushgreenville.org. 

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