Amherst finds new way to celebrate King’s life, legacy

  • Sonji Johnson-Anderson of Amherst raises her hands during a closing song Jan. 13, 2018 at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Breakfast program at Amherst Regional Middle School. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/13/2020 4:36:04 PM

AMHERST — A breakfast to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., and to honor area high school students and adult community members who continue to work toward his ideals, will be held Saturday at Amherst Regional Middle School.

Paul Wiley, an educator with extensive experience as a teacher, administrator and program coordinator in elementary education, will be the guest speaker at the 36th annual event, which has a theme of King’s dream living on.

Doors open at 8:30 a.m. for conversation over coffee. Breakfast is served at 9 a.m., with the event program beginning at 10 a.m.

Music will be performed by the Amherst Regional High School Jazz Combo, directed by Kara Nye, and the Amherst Area Gospel Choir, directed by Jacqueline Wallace.

Three high school seniors — Isabela Shepard and Aarti Lamberg, both Amherst Regional students, and Justin White, a Belchertown High student — will be awarded MLK scholarships

The Norma Jean Anderson Civil Rights and Academic Achievement Award will be given to a community member by Race and Discipline, Action, Rights, or RaDAR. That person’s name is kept a surprise until the presentation.

Tickets — which are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for children 12 and under — are available at A.J. Hastings, 45 South Pleasant St., Global Cuts, 460 West St., and the Jones Library, 43 Amity St., and at the breakfast’s reception desk.

Groups can also reserve tables with 10 or 12 seats in advance by contacting Ophelia Sowers at or 413-992-7625.

A life devoted to justice and equality

This year, the breakfast, which brings together community leaders, faith leaders and students, will be preceded by a Human Rights Commission-sponsored event on Wednesday.

On what would have been King’s 90th birthday, his accomplishments will be marked in an event beginning at 4 p.m. Jan. 15 on the steps of Town Hall.

Human Rights Commission Chairman Matthew Charity will speak, followed by a reading of a Town Council proclamation — unanimously adopted — by President Lynn Griesemer. That proclamation notes how King “devoted his life to justice and equality for people of all races and economic standings through non-violent means, which led to the establishment of many federal and local laws prohibiting discrimination and fostering human rights”

The ringing of bells will follow, with a candlelight procession to the Jones Library’s Woodbury Room, where Kathleen Anderson, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, will speak.

Anderson said she will likely bring reflections from “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” King’s final book, which was published in 1967.

There will also be a community dialogue and film, as well as a performance of “Lift Very Voice and Sing.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

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