Students volunteer during holiday

Hannah Mask

While many students may have spent their Martin Luther King Jr. day sleeping in and relaxing, a group of UA students participating in the Alternative Break Program traveled to Greensboro to volunteer with community service projects and tour the Safe House Black History Museum—where King was hidden from the Ku Klux Klan.

Mark McClemore, student coordinator for the Alternative Break Program, said the group arrived in Greensboro the morning of Jan. 15 and stayed until Monday.

On Saturday and Sunday, the group split up into several factions to work with community service organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Pie Lab and Bike Lab. Pie Lab, McClemore said, is a new initiative started in Hale County that serves pie and coffee in the front of the building while simultaneously providing a space for residents to meet to discuss community issues in the back.

Charlotte Brown, a sophomore majoring in marketing who is also the coordinator for Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, went on the trip and said she worked in both the Pie Lab and Bike Lab. The Bike Lab, she said, is an organization that takes in old bikes to repair them and provide them to people who have no other mode of transportation.

“We were clearing that [building] space out and basically getting it ready for [the owners] to renovate,” Brown said. “At the Pie Lab, we served pie, cleaned up the space and did odd jobs.”

Other factions of the group worked with Habitat for Humanity in weeding out a parking lot and doing work for a tenant who lived in a run-down house.

McClemore and Brown both said visiting the Safe House Museum on Monday was a highlight of their trip.

“We pulled up to a little yellow house and met one of the founders of the Civil Rights Museum,” McClemore said. “She [Theresa Burroughs] was very active in the civil rights movement. She knew Dr. King personally.”

McClemore said Burroughs gave recounts of non-violent protests in which she had participated. She also told McClemore that the night King stayed in the Safe House Museum, the black community gathered to stake out the house to protect him from the KKK.

“They made a vow to each other that they weren’t going to let Dr. King die that night in Greensboro,” McClemore said.

To have been in such a historic place on the day the nation commemorates King’s life, Brown said, was “surreal.”

“I was standing in the exact location where Martin Luther King was hiding from the KKK,” she said. “To hear the story from someone who was actually there gives more meaning and depth to the holiday as opposed to [it being] just a day off of school.”

Wahnee Sherman, the director of the community service center who also went to Greensboro, said she thought the trip to Greensboro held importance to the students and faculty who went.

“We were able to do some meaningful service and also introduce students to other ways in which they can be involved in the Greensboro community,” she said. “We want them to continue to do service.”

Sherman also said the Safe House Museum was a significant part of the trip.

“[Burroughs is] a piece of living history, and they were able to interact with her, so I think that was particularly meaningful for the students.”