7 ways Pittsburgh kids can celebrate Martin Luther King Day and honor Black history

Image above courtesy of Kelly Strayhorn Theater.

Organizations around town are planning special events to honor the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. These programs honor Black history with a nod to Dr. King through theatrical performances, music and art-making.

Robin McGee as Fannie Lou Hamer. Photo by Greg Mooney.

Jan. 13-16: “Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer,” August Wilson African American Cultural Center

The life of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer is brought to the stage at the August Wilson Center. This theatrical performance is filled with moving spirituals and protest songs, the same way that music accompanied Hamer’s work in the fight for women’s rights and voting rights in her native Mississippi and beyond. Kids and grownups will be inspired by this amazing woman. The production is presented through a group collaboration involving three Pittsburgh organizations — City Theatre, the August Wilson Center and the DEMASKUS Theater Collective — along with Atlanta’s Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company and the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Tickets are $40, with the exception of a pay-what-you-can performance on Jan. 16.

Jan. 16: The Audacity to Believe: An MLK Celebration, Kelly Strayhorn Theater

Kelly Strayhorn Theater celebrates the life, legacy and activism of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. through this annual community event. Family-friendly, hands-on activities take place in the lobby, including creative fun from organizations like Assemble Pittsburgh, The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, The Alloy School, Latino Community Center and The Union Project. Then, follow the crowd into the theater and take a seat to enjoy performances from Hill Dance Academy Theatre, Alumni Theater Company, K-Theatre Dance Complex and Jacquea Mae. Tickets are priced at “pay what moves you” from free to $25.

Photo courtesy of The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

Jan. 16: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

The Children’s Museum has programmed a full day of activities to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Kids can work alongside artists Morgan Overton and Trenita Finney to collaboratively paint Dr. King’s portrait and paint self-portraits of their hopes and dreams. With the spirit of giving back to the community, kids can make art that will be shared with local community groups and care homes. The “I Have A Dream” mural, designed and created by youth artists from Gwen’s Girls, Youth Places and MuseumLab’s Afterschool Program will be on display in the Studio. In the Makeshop, kids will be challenged to brainstorm ways to redesign a place in their community to be more inclusive and create a small-scale prototype. In SLB Radio’s Youth Media Center, kids can take part in “King’s Corner” to hear, explore and talk about words of wisdom from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. All activities are included in general admission.

Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Glass Center.

Jan. 16: Free Community Day, Pittsburgh Glass Center

Pittsburgh Glass Center hosts its annual free admissions day in honor of Dr. King. Kids can learn about glass through hands-on activities demonstrating teamwork’s importance in the creative process. Mind-blowing glassblowing demonstrations will take place throughout the day. Kids can also contribute to a glass mosaic community mural. Visitors are invited to bring a book or two to donate to the center’s Free Community Little Library.

Jan. 16: Afrofuturism Full Day Camp, Assemble Pittsburgh

Assemble Pittsburgh defines Afrofuturism as a cultural aesthetic, philosophy of science and philosophy of history that explores the developing intersection of African Diaspora culture with technology. This camp invites first- and second-graders to explore Afrofuturism, relate it to events and ideas, then apply to their lives. Before and after care is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Snacks and lunch are included for a full day of fun and discovery. Registration is $50, $25 for those who need financial help, free for Garfield residents. (Learn more about Assemble’s Afrofuturism work here.)

Jan. 20: Poetry Unplugged: Shock Value, August Wilson African American Center

The August Wilson Center’s annual Poetry Unplugged: Shock Value celebrates Martin Luther King’s legacy with a night of award-winning spoken-word artists. Orlando Watson hosts a curated list of poets including Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Danny Simmons, Rich Medina, Taalam Acey and Barbara Trawick. The afterparty features music provided by the world-renowned Rich Medina. With expectations of some adult language and themes, this event is best for older teens and grownups. Tickets are $48.

Illustration courtesy of Prime Stage Theatre.

Jan. 20-29: “Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad, New Hazlett Center for the Performing Arts

The Prime Stage Sprouts series at Prime Stage Theatre gears performances toward elementary students to inspire them with a love of theater and reading. The upcoming production of “Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad” tells the story of this courageous woman and her work to free slaves and transport them to safety. The production is filled with spiritual songs that add emotion to her dramatic tale. A sensory-inclusive performance is planned for Jan. 28 and an audio description performance will be offered on Jan. 27. Tickets start at $8.