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Home / Expert Opinion / GRAWA President’s Message: Remembering the spirit of Dr. King with a day of service

GRAWA President’s Message: Remembering the spirit of Dr. King with a day of service

Kimberly Duguay

It has been 150 years since the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, as the civil war entered its third year. The proclamation stated in part that “all persons held as slaves” within the rebel states “henceforth shall be free.”

Although the proclamation was limited in many ways, especially in that it only applied to states that seceded from the Union, it fundamentally changed the character of the war by adding the abolishment of slavery as an official goal. It also permitted black men to join the Union Army and Navy, allowing them to fight to secure their freedom. In fact, almost 200,000 black men fought for the Union by the end of the war.

Although slavery was not made illegal until the enactment of the 13th Amendment, which took effect in 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation was an important milestone in this country’s continuing path toward equality. This path was also significantly affected by the teachings and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement. His lectures, charismatic leadership and call for peaceful demonstrations stirred the conscience of our nation.

In 1983, Congress created a federal holiday marking the birthday of King, and in 1994, a federal holiday was designated as a national day of service. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service, and is characterized as a “day on, not a day off.”

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is observed each year on the third Monday in January, and calls for all Americans to work together to help solve our most pressing social problems.

In honor of Dr. King and his vision of a “Beloved Community,” GRAWA is proud to announce that it will be sponsoring its First Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Jan. 21.

This year is especially meaningful because it marks the 150th year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. GRAWA members, friends and family have three volunteer opportunities to select from to give back to the community on Jan. 21:

Foodlink — from 9 a.m. until noon, GRAWA members, family and friends can assist with organizing food for underprivileged Rochester families. Children 8 years of age and older are welcome to participate with an adult.

Volunteer Legal Service Project — from 10 a.m. until noon, GRAWA members are invited to use their legal skills to assist low-income pro se clients complete forms (this opportunity is limited to GRAWA’s attorney members).

Volunteers of America (VOA) — from 12:30 until 3 p.m. GRAWA members and friends can help paint a VOA day care room for school children.

GRAWA is also partnering with the Monroe County Bar Association to collect much needed food for families of the children at Rochester’s School 29. Donations of canned and boxed food items will be accepted through Jan. 21. Information regarding GRAWA’s day of service and food donations is available on GRAWA’s website at, or members and friends can contact GRAWA’s Diversity Committee chair, Josie Sheppard (

Kimberly Duguay is the 30th president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys and an appellate attorney at the Monroe County Public Defender Office, where she practices in the areas of criminal and family law.