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Arts & Culture

How To Celebrate MLK Day 2021 Around The Charlotte Region

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Organizations around the Charlotte region are not letting the coronavirus get in the way of marking this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday on Monday.

Virtual and outdoor events have been planned throughout the weekend to honor the civil rights leader and build on his dream of racial equality. They include film screenings, musical and dramatic performances, a "pay what you can" soup kitchen, and virtual remarks from Dr. King's oldest son, Martin Luther King III.

This year's events will also take on special significance after last summer's nationwide protests against police brutality and the rise of white nationalism, said Afeni Grace with Charlotte's Harvey B. Gantt Center.

"We have seen many of the same issues that Dr. King dedicated his life to brought to the surface this past year," she said.

As a result, she said the museum is planning to center its programming this weekend around the theme of Dr. King's final speech given the day before he was assassinated, "I've Been to the Mountaintop."

"My hope for this weekend is that people feel inspired and proud of the legacy of Dr. King, and that it reaches not just African American people, not just people of color, but it reaches and touches us all, because it's something we need now more than ever," Grace said.

Charlotte city leaders will also be among those marking the holiday. Mayor Vi Lyles is expected to appear in a pre-taped program honoring the civil rights leader for Opera Carolina on Monday, and City Councilman Braxton Winston will make an appearance in a virtual event for the Levine Museum of the New South.

There will not be a parade in uptown Charlotte this year due to coronavirus restrictions.

Here are some other events happening around the Charlotte region this weekend in honor of Dr. King:

Friday, Jan. 15:

7 p.m. — Virtual film screening of "I am MLK Jr." hosted by the Harvey B. Gantt Center. This will be the first of four films the museum will screen throughout the holiday weekend. The screening is free, and online registration is required.

7:30 p.m. — MLK Shabbat - Confronting the Machinery of Hate: White Supremacy, White Nationalism, and Antisemitism, hosted by Temple Beth El. Join North Carolina's Reform Jewish Congregations for a service featuring civil rights leader Eric Ward. He'll offer insights on confronting antisemitism, white supremacy, and white nationalism. The service will be held over Zoom and livestream.

Saturday, Jan. 16:

10 a.m. - 1 p.m. — MLK Day of Service on the Campus of Barber-Scotia College. Volunteers will be handing out free plates of fried fish and collecting non-perishable food items to be donated to the Cooperative Christian Ministry of Cabarrus County.

1 p.m. — 40th Annual Western York County NAACP MLK Jr. Parade, hosted by the Western York County Branch of the NAACP. The parade will travel through downtown York, beginning at Whiteside's Cleaners and ending at Jefferson Park. The parade will also be streamed on the local NAACP branch's Facebook page.

7 p.m. — Virtual film screening of "Children's March," hosted by the Harvey B. Gantt Center. This is the second of four films the museum will screen throughout the holiday weekend. The screening is free, and online registration is required.

Sunday, Jan. 17:

7 p.m. — Virtual Screening of "The Dream Revisited," hosted by the Harvey B. Gantt Center. This is the third of four films the museum will screen throughout the holiday weekend. The screening is free, and online registration is required.

Monday, Jan 18:

All day — Free MLK art/poetry/music program with Opera Carolina. This two-hour, virtual concert will be available for streaming all day Monday. It will feature music, spoken word and visual art, with selected readings from Dr. King's speeches. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles will be among the featured guests.

9 a.m. — MLK Holiday Celebration, hosted by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. This virtual event will feature special guest Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King. The event is free and will be livestreamed on Facebook.

9 a.m. — 2021 Annual MLK Day Interfaith Prayer Gathering, hosted by the city of Rock Hill. This virtual event will feature keynote speaker Dr. Maggie Wallace Glover. It will also feature dance, music, and poetry.

10 a.m. - 5 p.m. — Virtual MLK Day at the Gantt Center. The Harvey B. Gantt Center will present a slate of panel discussions, artistic performances, and a final film screening in their virtual day of programming centered around the theme of Dr. King's final speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop." The events are free. Registration is required.

11 a.m. — Leah and Louise "Pay What You Can Soup Kitchen." Local chefs will serve up specialty soups and collect donations for HEAL Charlotte, an organization that builds trust between citizens, police and elected officials. The event will be held at the Leah and Louise restaurant at Camp North End.

6 p.m. — MLK Day! Virtual Family Day Celebration, hosted by the Levine Museum of the New South. The event will include music, art, and spoken word, as well as remarks from Bernice A. King about the role of her mother, Coretta Scott King. Charlotte City Councilman Braxton Winston will also make remarks. The event will be streamed on the museum's YouTube page and its Facebook page.

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