About 5,000 people kicked off the nation’s largest organized MLK Day, headquartered at Girard College. This year’s theme highlighted being counted.
“It is a very important election year, and our voter participation could never be more important,” said Todd Bernstein, the day’s lead organizer.
He said this day of service is focused on raising awareness about Pennsylvania's new voting laws, the 2020 U.S. Census, and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, with a particular emphasis on black women's participation in the movement. Black women and men were not guaranteed voting rights until 1965, even though black women were crucial to the women’s suffrage movement.
“We didn't even think about girls coming to Girard College because it was a male school,” said Karen Asper Jordan, a freedom fighter who helped desegregate Girard. Girls weren't allowed to enroll until the ‘80s. The first woman didn't graduate until 1993.
“We knew we weren't going to participate in it — at least we didn't think we were — but we were doing it for the folks who came behind us,” she said.
“To see people working together on a day like this is extremely powerful for me,” he said.