Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and dozens of volunteers celebrated the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday Jan. 16 by cleaning the historic Evergreen Cemetery and helping Houston Habitat for Humanity build a home.
“I hope it encourages other people … to think about Martin Luther King’s birthday as more than just a day to stop and relax,” Commissioner Ellis said at the cemetery.
“If they are angry about health care, do something about it. If they are angry because people don’t have access to the ballot, do something about it. If they are angry about low wages, do something about it. So I hope this is a catalyst to motivate more people to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday as a holiday of action.”
The two events in the Fifth Ward are fitting tributes to the life and legacy of King, the slain civil rights leader whose birthday was celebrated nationwide.
The cemetery at Lockwood and Market streets dates to the late 1800s. Precinct One crews mowed the tall weeds about a week before MLK Day. Community volunteers did final sprucing on the holiday.
Woodrow W. Jones with Project RESPECT, which has trusteeship of the cemetery, said he was excited to see the workers. “It’s time to take the cemetery to another step. So much of our history is contained in this cemetery,” he said.
Eloise Pinckney, who was working with Rosalie Buggs, both volunteers representing the Houston Chapter of The Links Inc., said she was glad to see so many volunteers at the cemetery.
“I was not aware of this cemetery due to the fact that I am not from Houston,” she said. “But after hearing the history of how it was formed and to see how it wasn’t kept up, I think all the citizens should come out and make this a reality.”
At nearby Finnigan Park, which is a Precinct One facility, Habitat for Humanity and community volunteers were busy hammering 2-by-4 lumber to make 47 walls that later will be used to build a four-bedroom home in the Fifth Ward area.
Bianca Saenz, an 18-year-old senior at the Houston Can Academy Hobby campus, was with about a dozen of her fellow students working on a wall.
“We feel great,” Saenz said. “We like coming out and doing our part to serve others. We actually have been planning to find something to do to pay tribute to Martin Luther King.”
Habitat for Humanity allows people to purchase homes in a unique partnership. If a potential buyer meets the criteria and is selected as a future homeowner, he/she will be required to complete 300 “sweat equity hours” that include participating in homeownership training classes as well as building your home and your neighbors’ homes.
Commissioner Ellis thanked the volunteers at Finnigan Park and the cemetery.
“The commitment to volunteerism and community is what makes MLK Day stand apart from many other holidays,” he said. “I am heartened by the many people who turned out on their day off to do good work.”