Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brought people together. Others will continue that tradition this weekend, as the Capital Region salutes the civil rights leader on the 50th anniversary of his death.
"We are very much wanting to first and foremost honor Dr. King and all that he represented and fought for and, even more important, continue his work toward social justice," said Holly Hammond, who along with Garland Nelson and Lezlie Dana has chaired Saratoga Springs' weekend-long "MLK Saratoga" community project.
Saratoga's salute to King begins Friday. The "Dr. King Challenge" will include music and performance art at the JKB Theater at Skidmore College. It will begin at 7 p.m.
Celebrations of King's life also are planned in Schenectady and Albany. The Saratoga Springs events will be built around the theme of community and gathering in a positive way.
"It's all about calling people in, not calling them out," Hammond said. "We're not into accusing people, shaming people, telling them what's wrong. It's all about calling people in to come to the table."
Hammond said the annual King observances in Saratoga go back 20 years; the current project organizes events year-round. In 2017, about 900 people participated in the January gatherings.
The Saratoga events include:
- 9 a.m. — "Youthquake," workshops and performances designed for teenagers, Maple Avenue Middle School.
- 12:30 p.m. — "Dismantling Racism: Understanding Race and Privilege," Saratoga Springs Public Library.
- 3:30 p.m. — "America's Family Tree," at the Frederick Allen Lodge, 69 Beekman St.
- 4 p.m. — "Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival," Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church, 24 Circular St. The presentation will be followed by a soul food dinner and a performance by the Heavenly Echoes.
- 9:30 a.m. — "Community Building Through Community Service," Saratoga Springs Public Library.
In Schenectady, state Assemblyman Michael A. Blake will speak at the Schenectady County Human Rights Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition's 50th anniversary celebration.
The event will begin at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday inside the Carl B. Taylor auditorium at Schenectady County Community College.
"We need to keep his legacy and his dream alive and also his principles of peace, love and hope," said Angelica Morris, executive director of the Human Rights Commission.
Musical performances will be part of the afternoon.
"It's a time and place where we as a community can come together as one to celebrate Dr. King's life, but also hear inspirational words of encouragement," Morris said. "And also act upon that dream, to continue his dream and legacy within our communities and address those issues that Dr. King talked about."
Blake represents the state's 79th Assembly District, which includes portions of the Bronx. He is also a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
In Albany, the King memorial observance at the Empire State Convention Center will begin at 10 a.m. on Monday.
The keynote speaker will be Wintley Phipps, vocal artist, pastor, motivational speaker and education activist. Lola Brabham, acting commissioner of the state Department of Civil Service, will represent New York during the event's call to commemoration.
Heather Groll, a spokeswoman for the state's Office of General Services, said the Albany celebration is designed to commemorate the lives and legacies of King and his wife, the late Coretta Scott King.
"A great deal of emphasis is placed on how New Yorkers can learn from and commit to the ideals the Kings embraced and how the lessons we learned from Dr. King's words and actions are just as relevant today," Groll said in a prepared statement.
Guest presenters will include Kristina M. Johnson, chancellor of the State University of New York, Benita Zahn of NewsChannel 13 and JoDee Kenney of Spectrum News.
Musical performances will include Grammy and Tony Award winner Jennifer Holiday, the Schenectady County Community College Jazz Ensemble, Staging Youth's Future Inc. cast of "Rent" and Green Tech High Charter School.
Groll said about 2,000 people attend Albany's King event each year.
Reach Daily Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or [email protected].