Six Ways to Celebrate the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in Pittsburgh

These local events, scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 17, aim to honor the legacy and further the mission the civil rights leader strived for.
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Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed the third Monday of each year, celebrating the Jan. 15 birthday of civil rights leader. 

A variety of local events will be held this week and next to celebrate his legacy of community service and activism, and to further his mission of uplifting and amplifying marginalized voices. Whether it’s a day spent delivering care packages or cleaning up a Pittsburgh park, a choir performance live streamed from the historic Hill District or a virtual race benefiting the Equal Justice Initiative, there are many ways you can celebrate the holiday this year.

Give Me Liberty: East Liberty Celebrates MLK Day
Held at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty, this event is free and open to the public. Co-presented with the Garfield-based creative hub and project incubation space BOOM Concepts, it will aim to highlight the life, legacy and activism of King through a day of family-friendly activities and performances, featuring Women of Visions, Anita Levels, the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, The Alloy School and PearlArts.

“This year’s theme, ‘Give Me Liberty,’ explores using our voices for justice,” reads a post on Kelly Strayhorn website. “Inspired by the work of Dr. King and the many civil rights activists fighting for equality then and now, we’ll have engaging activities and performances that will highlight the multitude of ways we can use our voices and stories to transform the world.”

The event will take place on Jan. 17, with activities in the lobby from 1-4 p.m. and a performance at 2 p.m. Tickets are free, but a donation can be accepted at checkout.

The theater’s COVID-19 safety policies include mandatory masking for all guests, regardless of vaccination status.

MLK Day Clean-Up 
The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy released details Tuesday about its park clean-up efforts through the Park Champion Clean-Up Program. The agency is encouraging Pittsburghers to sign up for solo or small-group clean- =ups on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next Monday, allowing for a safe and socially distanced act of service.

The Park Champion Clean-Up Program is an ongoing volunteer effort to remove debris and litter from the city’s parks. Park Champions can select which park, what day and the time they’d like to participate. It’s a year-round endeavor, but conservancy officials say it’s also a great way to honor King’s legacy and work.

“Honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. is important every day but especially on MLK Day,” Erin Tobin, Community Engagement Manager for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, said in a press release. “Caring for Pittsburgh’s parks and working together to ensure that they remain clean, safe spaces for everyone is a great way to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King.”

To register, fill out the sign-up form here.

Let Freedom Sing!
The 15th annual Let Freedom Sing concert will be live streamed from the Hill District at 7 p.m. on Jan. 15. Directed by Herbert V.R.P. Jones, the event will feature Chantal Braziel and Anqwenique Wingfield, with The Heritage Gospel Chorale and The MLK Festival Singers.

Each year, several local choirs join to celebrate King’s ideals, with the goal of “blurring the geographic, demographic and economic lines separating urban and suburban Pittsburgh,” according to the event’s website.

The concert is free, but donations are encouraged. All donations will benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

MLK Day Week of Service — Pittsburgh Repair
Join Pittsburgh Repair in its mission of delivering care packages to unemployed and underemployed restaurant families throughout the region. This event, from 1-7 p.m. on Jan. 17, supports Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Aid, and is one of several events slated to take place in honor of King this week and next. Participants will need a car, a mask, the ability to lift up to 40 pounds and 1-2 hours of volunteer time to carry out no-contact deliveries.

Pittsburgh Repair will also host Black & Jewish Histories of the Hill District on Jan. 13. Moderated by BOOM Concepts Co-Founder D.S. Kinsel, the panel discussion will feature ACH Clear Pathways Director Tyian Battle, Rauh Jewish History Program & Archives Director Eric Lidji, Multimedia Producer Njaimeh Njie and Hill District community leader Terri Baltimore.

Panelists will discuss the impacts of communal institutions, partnerships and tensions, migration, arts and culture, racial justice uprisings and more.

On Jan. 16, Repair Families will host a virtual art gallery walkthrough, Hitchazkut: Strengthening Each Other in Pursuit of a More Just World

Following the virtual gallery walk, families will put together COVID care kits (masks, sanitizers, etc.) using supplies they picked up at the Repair the World workshop before the event. 412 Food Rescue will also be presenting on the work that they do. Families can either distribute the care kits in their own neighborhoods or return them to the Repair workshop for distribution.

Annual M.L.K.Jr., Tea & Jazz Event
From 1-4 p.m. on Jan. 17, Divine Delectables will host its annual tea and jazz event at the Triveni Center in Monroeville. Live jazz will be performed by the Tubby Daniels Quartet, and a variety of food and tea will be provided, too. 

Tickets cost $30, and must be purchased beforehand. 

I Have a Dream Virtual Race
The third-annual “I Have a Dream” virtual race is scheduled to take place on Jan. 17, but the running events — 1 mile, 5K, 10K, 13.1-mile and 26.2-mile races are available — can be completed any time in January. The sign-up fee is typically $18, but anyone who signs up now can register for $16. The registration fee includes a race bib and medal with a quote from King that reads, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

A portion of every registration fee will be donated to the Equal Justice Initiative, founded in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson, a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer and the author of “Just Mercy,” which chronicles his work representing folks who had been mistreated by the nation’s jails and prisons. 

The organization works to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., to challenge racial and economic injustice and to protect basic human rights for the “most vulnerable people in American society,” according to its website. It provides legal representation to people who have been wrongly convicted, unfairly sentenced or abused in state jails and prisons.

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