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Amherst honors MLK Jr. at Saturday event

The progress of civil rights in the Pioneer Valley and the nation will be the focus of discussion as people come together to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Saturday morning.

The 29th annual community breakfast to honor the civil rights leader and those who have followed his example begins at 8:30 a.m. at the middle school, 170 Chestnut St.

“Once again, we are looking forward to a wonderful celebration of the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Richmond Ampiah-Bonney, one of the lead organizers for the event.

John Higginson, a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts, will be the main speaker at the breakfast, outlining the achievements by King and what has happened in the more than four decades since his death.

Two high school seniors will be awarded scholarships in recognition of community service done in the spirit of King and a third will be honored with the Mary Pittman Wyatt Award, named after the late breakfast co-founder. Wyatt, who died in November 2011, dedicated her life to educating children and bringing people together.

The Mary Pittman Wyatt Memorial Fund was established through a donation by an Amherst couple to support the scholarship, Ampiah-Bonney said.

The breakfast, Ampiah-Bonney said, starts with coffee around 8:30 a.m. The meal will begin at 9 a.m., with prayers led by representatives from the Hampshire Mosque. The high school jazz band conducted by Kara Nye will perform while people eat and converse.

After the group moves to the auditorium, Higginson will speak, and the Common School Chorus, under the direction of K.C. Conlan, and the Hope Community Church Choir, directed by Taylor Middleton, will perform.

The Wildwood School STARs, which stands for Safe, Trying Our Best, Acting Responsibly, and Respectful, and featuring Pineapple Dance’s Electric Boys choreographed by Elizabeth and Remy Fernandez O’Brien, will dance to a remixed version of Earth Wind and Fire’s “Shining Star.”

The benediction will be led by the Rev. Dr. Ronald Wilson, minister in charge of the Wesley United Methodist Church in Hadley.

In addition, a community citizen’s award and a Norma Jean Anderson Civil Rights Award will be given out. State Rep. Ellen Story and State Sen. Stan Rosenberg will share the emcee duties.

The breakfast is being supplemented this year by an event sponsored by the town’s Human Rights Commission Monday, on the holiday that recognizes King birthday. Details are still being finalized. Tickets to the breakfast are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for children 12 and under. They can be purchased at the Jones Library, 43 Amity St., A.J. Hastings, 45 South Pleasant St., and Global Cuts, 460 West St. as well as at the door.

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