This Monday marks a special occasion honoring one man who had a dream. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday observed on the third Monday of January annually. In the City of Brotherly Love, this weekend holds a variety of opportunities to celebrate King and the impact of his legacy on our country today, and Metro has your guide to observing and celebrating MLK Day 2020.
Eastern State Penitentiary, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
The historic Eastern State Penitentiary will be honoring MLK Day this weekend (Jan. 18-20) through a series of free programs. Starting this Saturday, ESP will be holding special readings of Dr. King’s 1963 landmark text, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and also invites visitors to respond and join in on discussions based on its continued relevance in light of recent civil and human rights movements.
“Dr. King’s extraordinary letter has never been more relevant,” said Sean Kelley, senior vice president, director of interpretation for Eastern State Penitentiary in a release. “Dr. King taught us that civil disobedience was essential to the civil rights movement. When this highly educated and prominent man chose to be arrested and incarcerated, it forced many Americans to confront not just the racism of individual behavior, but the immorality and oppression in the nation’s legal system as well.”
Reading and discussions (accompanied by an informal discussion moderated by a civil rights scholar) will take place Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm—no reservations are required. According to the release, the ESP is also partnering with the African American Museum in Philadelphia and Art Sanctuary on MLK Day and invites children, ages 7-12, and their families to create art in response to themes found in the letter and read stories about Dr. King’s life and legacy. Family activities are available on Monday, January 20, from 10 am to 4 pm. Philadelphians can also catch live music from local musician Justin Griggs at 1 pm and 3 pm this Monday as well.
2027 Fairmount Ave., easternstate.org
The Annenberg Center, ‘We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’
This Friday, The Annenberg Center will be showcasing “We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr” on their main stage. Inspired by the words and actions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We Shall Overcome” features a wide variety of elements from across African American music traditions that inspired generations of civil rights activists and defenders. The performance will be led by Damien Sneed, who has gained his fame by being a multi-genre musician and recently was the recipient of the prestigious Sphinx Medal of Excellence.
The moving performance this Friday will incorporate the spoken word from Dr. King’s speeches with a musical lineage that includes traditional gospel, modern gospel, classical, jazz, Broadway and spiritual inspirations. Sneed also incorporated music from Aretha Franklin, Wynton Marsalis, Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Donny Hathaway and “The Wiz” to truly make this performance memorable.
According to the release, performers joining Damien Sneed for We Shall Overcome include vocalists Chenee Campbell, Markita Knight, Anitra McKinney, Alicia Peters-Jordan, and Linny Smith; Marquéz Cassidy on organ; Arthur Sutton on bass; Joel Tate on drums; and singers from New Spirit of Penn Gospel Choir and St. Thomas Gospel Choir.
3680 Walnut St., annenbergcenter.org
Museum of the American Revolution, ‘We Shall: A Lyrical MLK Celebration’
This Saturday, the Museum of the American Revolution is teaming up with the Philadelphia Jazz Project to present “We Shall: A Lyrical MLK Celebration.” According to the release, vocalists and musicians from the PJP will be utilizing brief excerpts from King’s speeches and sermons as inspiration and then incorporate a combination of gospel, jazz, and blues music to create this moving piece of music. The performance will be from 3 pm-4 pm this Saturday and is free with museum admission.
Other activities at the MOAR include a Community Engagement Wall where visitors can tell the MOAR how they will create change in their communities and #BeTheRevolution; a Discovery Cart (11 am-3 pm)where visitors can learn about the life of James Forten, a free African American who volunteered aboard a privateer ship to fight the British Navy when he was only 14 years old; a live reading and discussion of a poem by Phillis Wheatley, America’s first published black female poet (which will take place in the Liberty Tree gallery alongside a signed copy of Wheatley’s book at 1:30 pm on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday); and 30-minute “Tableau Talks” within the Museum’s galleries (2:30 pm on Thursday, Friday and Monday) where visitors will learn the stories of both free and enslaved people of African descent who fought for freedom during the Revolutionary War.
101 S 3rd St., amrevmuseum.org