By Cherri Gregg


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The city of Philadelphia is gearing up for the 21st Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. KYW Community Affairs reporter Cherri Gregg was at Girard College, the headquarters for the nation’s largest Day of Service, for the kick off.

In just 12 days, more than 140,000 volunteers are expected to take part in 1,800 service projects across the region with a major focus on celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott started by Rosa Parks and a theme centered on justice.

Todd Bernstein at podium announces Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service details. (credit: Cherri Gregg/KYW)

Todd Bernstein at podium announces Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service details. (credit: Cherri Gregg/KYW)

“Racial justice, economic justice, religious, criminal justice system, environmental justice and I think it is particularly fitting that we are focusing on that this year,” says Todd Bernstein, president of Global Citizen the non-profit that organizes the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.  He says given recent headlines dealing with justice issues, the service projects at the Girard College headquarters will include racial justice dialogue, a community policing event, job fair, health expo and much more.

“This is a great country, but there it’s had some great sins,” says Mayor Jim Kenney, who will participate in his first King Day of Service as mayor on January 18th.  He says the focus of tenure is also justice and equity.

“Young people in our city regardless of the zip code they live in should have every opportunity to meet their potential,” says Kenney.

Kenney presented the 18th annual Harris Wofford Active Citizenship Award to Eastern State Penitentiary for its work in raising awareness about the issue of mass incarceration.

“It comes from asking our mostly white middle class visitors why our criminal justice system looks the way it looks– why our prison system is filled with so many men of color,” says Shawn Kelly, director of interpretation at Eastern State.  He says they are building a new exhibit on some of the injustices within the criminal justice system, which will open in May.

Girard College’s Lower School choir opened the day with their rendition of “We Shall Overcome” and students from multiple schools revealed a mural showcasing their interpretation of the justice theme and the impact of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

There’s still time to sign up to volunteer for the Greater Philadelphia MLK Day of Service, details at MLKDayofService.org.