The following is a guest post from Joyell Johnson, Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with the Banneker-Douglass Museum.
It’s true, “you never know what you’re gonna get” out of life because it doesn’t always go according to plan. All the planning in the world would not have prepared me for the roller coaster ride I had in planning “Garment of Destiny: A Day of Remembrance and Service.” This event was in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and inspired by a quote from Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham” (1963), “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” With a lot of hard work and motivation, this event proved to be one of the most enjoyable.
At the end of November/early December, I was asked to organize a Martin Luther King Jr. event that would encourage service and volunteerism. Being the thespian I am, I immediately thought of volunteers performing a series of monologues and literary passages to commemorate the progression of African Americans and equality in this country. All I would have to do is select which figures to portray and recruit volunteers for each role. Simple, right? Wrong. Compiling the text for the monologues/literary passages (script) was a headache in and of itself. I had an idea of which readings I wanted to use, but I could only find them in my text books and novels from college. I had to type the majority of the script from books, as well as write the introductions for each reading. Recruiting enough volunteers to fill each role was difficult as well. Not to mention that I ran into three major holidays, I have a second job, and I had mono…not the best combination to have when planning an event. Nevertheless, through the encouragement of others, I remained optimistic and continued to give one hundred percent.
Before I knew it, it was the first week of January and there was still a significant amount of work to be done before the big day. Ever notice how life’s most unpredictable moments tend to bring the best out of you? Well, I experienced several unpredictable moments. The Thursday before the event, which was on a Monday, the second half of the event’s program (following intermission) was cut. All I kept thinking was, “What am I going to do? There’s no way I can come up with something this late.” As I was driving across the bay bridge, back to the Eastern Shore, ideas for the second half of the event were running through my mind, but nothing seemed to fit. I had the urge to throw up my hands as a sign of defeat, but I couldn’t because I was driving. Then I started talking out loud. You know that conversation you have with yourself when you declare, “If one more thing goes wrong, I’m done!” I had one of those conversations. Unfortunately, I spoke too soon. Friday, I received an email that one of the performers was pulling out of the production and I still had no idea what I was going to do to fill the second half of the program. Well, the show must go on, right?
Friday night, the idea of doing a medley of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches for the second half of the program popped into my head, so I ran with it. I spent Saturday morning and afternoon, reading through Dr. King’s writings and speeches, to decide which ones to use. Then came the task of choosing the paragraphs to be read from each speech/writing so that they flowed with one another. Another unexpected difficulty. And what was I going to do about the performer who pulled out? Luckily, a friend heard about my dilemma and agreed to perform as many readings as I needed her to do. Phew. One less thing I had to worry about for the weekend. I spent the remainder of the weekend distributing the Medley of King piece to the “Garment of Destiny” cast and finishing last minute details for the event.
I woke up Monday morning, feeling relaxed. It was the big day and I was excited to see this event come to fruition. Despite some volunteers getting lost and parking in downtown Annapolis being basically nonexistent, all of the volunteers arrived and we worked together to get everything set up; from the registration table, the stage, the refreshment table, and the hands-on activity (for people to write their personal destinies and dreams for the future). It was truly a team effort; a testament that you are only strong as the people around you. I wasn’t sure how many people were going to attend “Garment of Destiny” but even if there were only three people in the audience, I knew everyone was going to do their best.
Turns out, one hundred and twenty individuals were in attendance! Many of them stayed after the readings were over to tour the rest of the museum, mingle a little, and take part in the activity of recording their own dreams in the museum’s family gallery. The event itself far exceeded my expectations; along with hearing how many of those in attendance had learned something new and were interested in volunteering with the Banneker-Douglass Museum further. How awesome is that?! This is definitely one of the highlights of my service year as a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator.
If anyone is interested in volunteering as a tour guide or for upcoming events at the Banneker-Douglass Museum, feel free to contact Joyell Johnson at 410-216-6187 or by email at JJohnson1@goci.state.md.us. More information about the Banneker-Douglass Museum can be found at www.bdmuseum.com.