Skip to main content

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Learning Lab

On January 29, 2024, the second Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Learning Lab took place at the Kankakee County Courthouse in partnership with AmeriCorps, IDHS, Kankakee School District, Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, JUMP Mentoring, and the Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s Office. Over 30 students from BBCHS and Kankakee School District served as defense attorneys, prosecution, and jury in a trial discussing the State of Mississippi VS J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, commonly referred to as the Emmet Till trial. Till’s death is considered a watershed moment for the United States and many historians regard it as a catalyst for the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a National Day of Service when AmeriCorps programs must participate by hosting a service event or program in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Following Martin Luther King Jr.’s Beloved Community mindset to transform unjust systems, the goal of a justice learning lab is to provide an educational space for students to learn in a real environment and allow them to interact with the justice system on their terms.

Dr. King's Beloved Community is a global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.

In preparation for the court proceedings, Kankakee State’s Attorney Jim Rowe met with students to provide insight into his experience in the court system and to prepare students for their upcoming roles as witnesses, prosecutors, and jury. Students also dissected FBI files and evidence to better understand the case.

Students were divided into three separate courtrooms, where they worked with sitting judges, attorneys, and paralegals. In the end, three guilty verdicts were provided.

During this time, Serve Illinois formally recognized all the students who participated in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Learning Lab with the Office of the Governor Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service Certificate of Appreciation presented as an expression of our appreciation for their outstanding contributions on behalf of the people of the State of Illinois. This certificate is one of the highest honors an Illinoisian can receive for volunteerism and service and bears the immortal words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve”. 

Serve Illinois also provided a special presentation as a part of AmeriCorps’ 30th Anniversary recognizing the following individuals as Honorary AmeriCorps Members for exemplifying AmeriCorps’ values, demonstrating that service is not a moment, but a movement.

Honorary AmeriCorps Member Rose Aviles

Honorary AmeriCorps Member Alyssa Moeschke

Honorary AmeriCorps Member Jonathon Watson

Honorary AmeriCorps Member Shavez Rosenthal

Honorary AmeriCorps Member Chloe Jurgenson

Honorary AmeriCorps Member Jennifer Goudreau

Honorary AmeriCorps Member Jeanette Wierer

Honorary AmeriCorps Member Cheryl Chamberlain

Honorary AmeriCorps Member Stephanie Morgan Harris

Honorary AmeriCorps Member Honorable J. Imani Drew

Honorary AmeriCorps Member Honorable Marlow A. Jones

Honorary AmeriCorps Member Honorable Thomas W. Cunnington

Congratulations to all, and thank you to our partners AmeriCorps, IDHS, Kankakee School District, Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, JUMP Mentoring, the Kankakee County State’s Attorney’s Office, and Kankakee State’s Attorney for helping make this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Learning Lab a success!