About Us

Who We Are

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Build is a collaboration of several non-profit, educational, and volunteer organizations in Tompkins County, NY.  We are comprised of members from the Africana Library at Cornell University; The Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity at Ithaca College; teachers and staff developers from the ICSD; The Family Reading Partnership; the Multicultural Resource Center; the Village at Ithaca; the Tompkins County Public Library, and community members.

The mission of The MLK Community Build is to engage all sectors of the community in realizing, as King said, that “we are tied in a single garment of destiny.”  We aim to have people from all walks of life come together through shared readings, discussions, and events based on the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our first major project is to have 10,000 copies of Dr. Martin Luther King’s last book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? reprinted especially for people in the Tompkins County area.  The books will be distributed to people of all ages via schools, book clubs, non-profit and social service agencies, etc.  We will also have audio books created.  Our Kick-Off will be held during fall 2010.

Our History

The MLK Community Build committee was established in May of 2008 in Ithaca, New York.  The group’s aims are to address issues of inequity, to bring people together to foster dialogue across racial, economic, political, and geographical backgrounds, and to promote widespread shared readings and explorations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s writings – particularly his last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

The idea of having the Ithaca/Tompkins community read this book grew out of a series of workshops entitled “Achieving Equity: Where Have We Been, Where Are We Now, and Where Can We Go?” at the Tompkins County History Center that were held in March and April, 2008.  At the last “Achieving Equity” workshop, several diverse people came together to further the effort by working to republish and distribute this book.  That group, along with many others, became the MLK Community Build collective. Words taken from the back cover of the 1968 edition may best capture what this collective believes about the book and The Build:

“His [King’s] vision extends beyond today, beyond the hard issues facing the Negro rights movement, to the common cause of all the disinherited—white as well as black—in a world where poverty, racism, and militarism are still rampant. Here are Martin Luther King, Jr.’s specific plans for action—realistic programs and suggestions for what should and can be done now.”

With this book, we hope honest discussions will take place, and also lead to actions that will bring us closer to King’s vision of a “beloved community.”  We understand people will not always agree, but it is impossible to build community without talking and working together.

About the book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

From the publisher, Beacon Press:

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., isolated himself from the demands of the civil rights movement, rented a house in Jamaica with no telephone, and labored over his final manuscript.  In this important work, which has been unavailable for more than ten years, we find King's acute analysis of American race relations and the state of the movement after a decade of civil rights efforts.  King lays out his thoughts, plans, and dreams for America's future, including the need for better jobs, higher wages, decent housing, and quality education.  Today, as African American communities stand to lose more wealth than any other demographic during this economic crisis, King's call for economic equality and sustainability is especially pertinent.  With a universal message of hope that continues to resonate, King demanded an end to global suffering, asserting that humankind-for the first time-has the resources and technology to eradicate poverty.

[about the author of the book's forward]  Coretta Scott King (1927-2006), the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., was an American author and human rights activist. She helped lead the civil rights movement after King's assassination, carrying the message of nonviolence and the dream of a beloved community to many countries, and spearheading coalitions and foundations.

[about the author of the book's introduction]  Civil rights activist Vincent Harding was a friend and colleague of King and worked with Coretta Scott King to establish the King Center in Atlanta, serving as its first director.  A distinguished theologian and historian, he is the award-winning author of several books and lives in Denver, Colorado.