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10 ways kids can celebrate Martin Luther King Day in Pittsburgh

Candy Williams
January17/ 2019

Organizations around town are planning special events for families to honor the work and legacy of the champion of civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here are 10 activities and programs that families can enjoy while honoring Dr. King through art, music and writing. Events take place on Jan. 21, except where noted.

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

The Children’s Museum invites kids to read the inspiring words of Dr. King aloud at the podium during its annual “King for a Day” activity hosted by Saturday Light Brigade Radio. In the Art Studio, kids will learn about “Freedom Corner,” the historic site at Centre and Crawford avenues, a symbol of Pittsburgh’s Civil Rights Movement. Create collages using historical Civil Rights images and design a picket sign to hold in front of a community mural. A full day of fun activities includes “Seeds of Change,” which explores forgiveness through planting seeds.

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Kids can work with glass and create mosaics at Pittsburgh Glass Center’s MLK Day event.

Pittsburgh Glass Center

Pittsburgh Glass Center hosts a free Family Fun Day where kids can learn about glass through hands-on activities that demonstrate the importance of teamwork in the creative process. Mind-blowing glassblowing demonstrations will take place throughout the day.

Families are welcome to stop by the Pittsburgh Glass Center or the Mecca of Kulture & Art to help make mosaics for the exterior of MOKA Art Gallery & House of Culture. MOKA is a new creative space sharing the rich African and African-American cultural legacy that originated in the Hill District of Pittsburgh.

Mattress Factory

The Mattress Factory – typically closed on Mondays – will hold its annual MLK Day Celebration with a bargain pay-what-you-can admission. The party will feature a Celebration Crown decorating station, scavenger hunt and cookie table, all set to the toe-tapping tunes of DJ Dave Zak. A partnership with the Children’s Museum brings the “XOXO: A Project About Love & Forgiveness” pop-up to the party.

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Stirring voices from choirs throughout Pittsburgh will gather at the Byham Theater.

Heritage Gospel Chorale

The Heritage Gospel Chorale’s 12th annual MLK celebration features Lynn Hayes-Freeland and the Mt. Ararat Baptist Church Choir for “Let Freedom Sing” at the Byham Theater. Seven choirs in all will raise their voices, including groups from Pittsburgh’s High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), Ebenezer Baptist Church, Temple Sinai, and Woodland Hills High School will perform. The program includes Staycee Pearl Dance Project and Soy Sos.

Doors Open Pittsburgh

Doors Open Pittsburgh celebrates MLK Day early – on Jan. 19 – with its “Ride with the King: Black History Tour.”  Choose from a bus tour or self-guided tour. Kids will hear stories about Pittsburgh’s African-American history dating from the 1800s to the present. Leaders in the city’s African-American church community will be the guides at St. James African Church in East Liberty, Bethel AME Church in Uptown and Brown Chapel AME Church on the North Side.

Other tour locations include the August Wilson Center to view “Familiar Boundaries. Infinite Possibilities,” an exhibition featuring the works of 12 contemporary artists, and the Dollar Bank Heritage Center in the Dollar Bank Fourth Avenue building, where the bus tour will begin. Light refreshments will be served in one of the churches. Reservations required.

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Instead of taking a day off, Community Day School is planning a full day of activities in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

Community Day School

“Beloved community” will be the focus of programming at Community Day School in Squirrel Hill for its fourth observance of MLK Day, which begins with a prayer service on Jan. 21. The service will feature music by The Afro-Semitic Experience, a jazz ensemble from New Haven, Conn. that blends Afro-diasporic and Jewish music as a pathway to unity. The concert is free and open to the community.

Students will spend the rest of the day participating in lessons and activities, including music workshops, a service project coordinated by Repair the World fellows, and the creation of a school-wide mosaic art installation. To mark the importance of the day, school bells will be shut off, and students and faculty will wear T-shirts with a portrait of Dr. King and the phrase “His dream is my dream.”

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“We Shall Overcome” combines energetic musical performances with excerpts from the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We Shall Overcome”

We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. featuring Damien Sneed” takes the stage at the August Wilson Center on Jan. 15. “We Shall Overcome” showcases a stirring repertoire from across African-American music traditions that electrified generations of civil rights activists and defenders. The music is interwoven with dramatic spoken word from Dr. King’s recorded speeches. Producer and musical director Damien Sneed’s background includes working with Wynton Marsalis, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and the Clark Sisters, promising an entertaining and informative experience.

Carnegie Library locations

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will host family-friendly events to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at five Pittsburgh branch locations from Jan. 14 to 31 for age groups from tots to fifth graders. Programming includes Celebrating a Hero, as well as the Young Dreamer’s Book Club featuring Dr. Griffin-El reading Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “The Dreamocracy Learning Lab presents MLK 360″ will be presented at two locations. Check the schedule for events in your neighborhood.

Kelly Strayhorn Theater

The 10th edition of East Liberty Celebrates MLK Day at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater will feature a diverse mix of community partners teaming up to offer exciting performances and family-friendly activities that affirm Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s example of activism. Hands-on play will be hosted by a variety of groups, including Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Center for Creative Reuse, Assemble, and Repair the World: Pittsburgh. Then head to the main stage for performances by Alumni Theatre Company, Barrels to Beethoven, Nick Daniels/The DANA Movement Ensemble and Dreams of Hope.

Poetry Unplugged

The third annual Poetry Unplugged: An MLK Celebration on Jan. 18 at the August Wilson Center is a night of spoken word and music featuring artists from around the country using the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr., as inspiration. Mahogany Browne hosts an evening featuring poets Jessica Care More and Prentice Powell, among others. Parental discretion is advised. Best for high school age and up.

Candy Williams

Candy Williams is a freelance writer and journalist whose articles have appeared in national and local publications. She lives in the South Hills.

  • Christa Reply
    3 months ago

    Thanks for posting these great events!

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