Pittsburgh honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy in entertaining ways

| Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, 9:14 p.m.

Long before President Ronald Reagan signed the 1983 bill marking a federal holiday to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., honoring the legacy of the slain civil-rights leader has been important to the black community and beyond, says Alecia Shipman from the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

“In addition to his contributions that he provided to just the African-American community, it's important to understand his commitment to equality and accessibility and equity,” says Shipman, director of artistic initiatives for the Downtown center. “For us, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is really important, because it's important to remember his legacy. ... It's really great that he is being celebrated.

“Outside of how we generally appreciate his contributions to civil rights and equality, we just even more so appreciate his legacy of discipline and commitment that he gave to the African-American community, and just the discipline that he showcased for the injustices that he saw ... and wrongs that needed to be righted,” Shipman says.

While many people honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day by doing volunteer work, some area organizations, including the August Wilson Center, are providing entertainment, either on the holiday, which is Monday, or within a few days.

Here are a few opportunities to seek out:

• The August Wilson Center will open its doors with free admission Monday for “Martin Luther King Community Day.” The event includes family activities such as arts and crafts, movies, and performances by the August Wilson Dance Ensemble. The Downtown center will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Details: 412-258-2700 or www.augustwilsoncenter.org

• Two MLK events will happen Monday in East Liberty. Activities will start with “East Liberty Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.” at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater at 2 p.m., with two hours of lobby activities, such as family-friendly crafts. Visitors also can learn about many organizations making a difference in the community. From 2 to 4 p.m., several community groups — including Dreams of Hope and Alumni Theater Company — will give free performances at the theater.

Janera Solomon, executive director of the theater, says that the Kelly-Strayhorn's MLK event honors King's admonishment to use the creative community to make the world better.

After the theater performances, visitors will march to the Union Project's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, at Eastminster Presbyterian Church at 250 N. Highland Ave. The free event includes a meal, and a discussion about how people in the community are living out King's dream. The Union Project event is from 4 to 7 p.m., with dinner served at 4:30 p.m. Details: www.kelly-strayhorn.org

• Vanessa German — a multidisciplinary artist who is an actress, photographer, sculptor and more — will be performing Saturday the “Let Freedom Sing” show with the Pittsburgh Gospel Choir. The show — beginning at 7 p.m. at Sixth Mt. Zion Baptist Church in East Liberty — features inspirational American gospel music to honor King. “Let Freedom Sing” will repeat at 7 p.m. Monday at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and the Westmoreland County Food Bank. Details: 412-512-0589

• “MLK Jr. Day in the Park!” will be celebrated from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday at Schenley Park Ice Rink. The free event celebrates diversity and the power of individuals to make a difference. Activities include ice-skating, snowshoeing, educational projects and art activities. Children must bring signed parental release forms, available through Venture Outdoors. Details: 412-255-0564 or e-mail info@ventureoutdoors.org

• Kids and parents can enjoy a family-friendly “Celebrate Dr. King's Birthday” event Monday at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh on the North Side. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., children and adults can learn about King's more memorable words. The Saturday Light Brigade will host a radio show and invite visitors of all ages to stand at the microphone and read portions of King's speeches during a five-hour marathon. At 2 p.m. in the museum's theater, actor Greg Kenney will tell stories about King's legacy with excerpts from his original show, “I Had a Dream: A Conversation with a Friend.” Activities are included with general admission of $13; $12 for ages 2 to 18 and senior citizens. Details: 412-322-5058 or www.pittsburghkids.org

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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