01:37 - Source: CNN
Atlantans use art to carry on MLK legacy

Story highlights

Arts organizations gathered in Atlanta to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Teen leader Chaz Wright encourages others to make the King holiday a day of service

For more ways to change the world, visit www.serve.gov/mlkday

(CNN) —  

A day on … not a day off.

These words are written on posters that fill the gymnasium of the King Center in Atlanta.

They sit beside the image of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and are meant to inspire others to devote themselves to their “beloved communities” on the upcoming holiday.

Young leaders from across Atlanta gathered this month during a celebration of the holiday to talk about how they are seeking change in their schools, homes and communities.

“The legacy of Dr. King is oneness in the community, everyone treating each other as they would want to be treated,” said Monique Barashango, founder of Atlanta’s ViZion Dance company. “Living a life full of love, giving a helping hand wherever you see fit.”

Barashango doesn’t set aside one Monday a year to give back. The former substitute teacher tries to live in the spirit of King.

Passionate yet soft-spoken, Barashango started the performance group when she spotted immense talent in a group of otherwise marginalized youth.

Louis Delsarte unveiled a mural commissioned by the city of Atlanta, "Dreams Visions and Change," on January 17, 2010.
Jessica Moskowitz/CNN
Louis Delsarte unveiled a mural commissioned by the city of Atlanta, "Dreams Visions and Change," on January 17, 2010.

“Some of our children have gone through unimaginable circumstances, and our young adults as well,” Barashango said. “But they use their lives as living testimony so that others can live productive lives.”

Chaz Wright is one of those offering testimony. A teen poet who started writing in the fifth grade, Wright believes in the power to change his community through spoken word.

“I realized that poetry is really something that people listen to, and I want to get the message out as many ways as I can,” Wright said.

From his poem “Maturity”:

See now I’d rather have respect then some diamonds around my neck.

I want to graduate top of my class.

What most don’t understand is high school isn’t going to last forever.

As president of the Stewart Foundation, which Wright says works to build leaders of tomorrow, this teen also lives the legacy of King.

“If you really want to make a change, you have to go out and make it happen yourself. You can’t expect somebody else to do it.”

What does he hope for Monday?

“I would encourage everybody on this holiday to go out and actually try to make a difference in the world,” Wright said.

Princess Starr encounters talented teens like Wright as co-founder of the Young Voices United Performing Arts School in suburban Atlanta.

The former Spelman College music major says her family helps give back to the community in the tradition of King.

“We can bring our youth in and actually teach them life skills through a performing art,” Starr said. “We are helping to carry on the dream that Dr. King articulated to let our kids know that they can do anything, they can be anything.”

Her words of advice: “Go out and do something for someone. Be a light to somebody.”

Looking for inspiration for your day on? For more ways to change the world in your own area on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, visit www.serve.gov/mlkday.