In commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and mission, on January 15th, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, both clients and employees of Smith & Young Talent came together at the Alpha Bonding parking lot to distribute goods to the less fortunate.

The agency distributed yogurt packs, socks, and an assortment of goods. Established in 2017, Smith & Young Talent, an Atlanta-based agency, initiated the project as a philanthropic mission in collaboration with New York Times bestselling author of “I’m not Dying With You Tonight,” and Community Activist Kimberly Latrice Jones, along with Smith & Young co-founder Chris Young. The intention was to give back to a community that had given so much to them, said Jones. “God’s given me so much and he requires so much for what he’s given me,” she said. “I’ve done so much as a creative writer and now what am I doing for my people.’

Jones, a writer signed to Smith Young Talent, revealed the idea of the MLK Sock Drive was born during discussions with her agent, Chris Young. “If we couldn’t provide shoes, the least that we felt like we could do is run out and find providers of socks or just simply purchase them ourselves,” Young said. Recognizing the need for more community engagement, the pair brainstormed ideas for impactful projects. Jones drew inspiration from a conversation with a family friend, an emergency room doctor at Grady Memorial Hospital, who shed light on the critical need for socks among the less fortunate. “People don’t realize the significance of having dry feet,” Jones explained. “Without proper footwear, individuals are susceptible to infections that can affect their overall health.” This led to the inception of the MLK Sock Drive, a project aimed at providing a basic yet often overlooked necessity to those in need.

Individuals facing homelessness frequently navigate the streets for extended durations, at times wearing ill-fitting shoes and worn-out socks. Dr. Hwang cited in a 2015 report written by Homeless Hub highlighted that foot-related disorders, including onychomycosis, tinea pedis, corns, callouses, and immersion foot, often stem from inadequate footwear, prolonged exposure to moisture, extensive walking and standing, and repetitive minor trauma. Moreover, Dr. Hwang’s research also states that those living on the streets are particularly susceptible to skin diseases such as cellulitis, impetigo, venous stasis disease, scabies, and body lice. The challenges of limited access to showers and maintaining proper hygiene further compound existing health issues in this vulnerable population.

Growing up in Chicago, Jones attributes much of her inspiration to the legacy of the Black Panther Party, which she believed went unnoticed for the community development work that they provided to the community, such as their breakfast program, housing initiatives, and efforts in providing for the community’s basic needs. “One of the things that people don’t talk about enough, or they do talk about it but not sufficiently, was all of their community engagement,” Jones told The Atlanta Voice.

Accompanying Young and Jones were several of their neighbors, family members, and community members. This includes Kenneth Reddick II and his son 6-year-old Kenneth Reddick III, along with his daughter Cameron Reddick, who is a graduate of Hampton University and member of A.K.A. “Part of my organization is sisterhood, scholarship, and service. Service is very important to me. It’s not just something that I’m required to do,” Cameron Reddick said of why she chose to volunteer. “It’s something I enjoy doing. So I just wanted to make sure that on today, Founders Day, as well as MLK Day, I was able to recognize that.”

The volunteers walked around the downtown area, meeting individuals living in encampments under the expressway, as well as on the streets.

John Elvis Tindall, also known as “Hustle,” an Atlanta resident of sixteen years, and a recipient of the drive has seen MLK Day evolve for the better. Born in South Carolina, Tindall moved to Atlanta to pursue a career in the emerging film and television industry. A resident of the Welcome House near Memorial Avenue, Tindall praises the evolution of community efforts since being in Atlanta. “People are coming out here giving out stuff to people. They are helping out the elderly, helping older people, and giving them clothes. I think it’s great. It’s lovely,” Tindall told The Atlanta Voice.