Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy grows through community garden, service

Uchechi Owunna

Pamela Saulsberry was in high school when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. At the time, it did not make any sense to her that someone that preached love could be killed because of what he stood for.

Fifty-three years later, Saulsberry, who is now ULM’s executive director of diversity and equity, spearheaded community service as part of the university’s annual MLK Day of Service.

“Martin Luther King was a person that was trying to make America what it said it was in a participatory, non-violent way and his passing was a devastating event,” Saulsberry said. “But the way we can keep his dream alive is by perpetuating his belief especially by doing something positive for the community.”

Students from ULM and Louisiana Delta Community College gathered last Monday morning to give back to their community by working on the new Esther Gallows Community Garden. 

The land for the garden was donated by Christopher Davis, the son of the late Esther Gallow.

Volunteers helped complete the final preparations on the garden before planting began.

Construction management students helped install 30 wooden planter beds in the garden while the Office of Marketing and Communication designed shirts for the volunteers. 

“This project was chosen because it is transformational. It not only benefits the community for a day, but it builds something that will last,” Saulsberry said. “It is also meeting the needs of the community as there are not many grocery stores where they can get fresh foods in that area.”

Kendrick January, the principal at the Roy Neal Shelling Sr. Elementary, said he wanted to be a part of the project after Saulsberry reached out to him regarding the community project of bringing fresh produce from the seed to the table.

“Participating in the community development especially on MLK Day is encouraged at the school,” January said. “Our teachers always share with the students the significance and achievements of Martin Luther King. We also emphasize the importance of giving back to the community too.”

A class of students from the elementary school painted labels for the flower beds and volunteers placed them. 

Five of the flower beds were donated to the elementary school and they plan on planting and tending to their plants with the help of their school’s groundskeeper and their science teacher.

The garden is located between the Booker T. Washington Senior Village Apartments and the Roy Neal Shelling Elementary school.

“The location of the garden is strategic as it produces an opportunity for two generations to interact. It allows the senior citizens to share their experiences and knowledge and a way for the students to learn,” Saulsberry said.