MLK Day events going virtual in Amherst, Northampton

  • Members of the Amherst Regional High School Jazz Ensemble play “Blues by Five” by Red Garland during the 36th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Breakfast held at the middle school on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. From left are sophomore Rebekah Hong, senior Max Vanderleeden and juniors Saliim Saulsberry and Junior Rodriguez. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/13/2021 11:53:21 AM

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy will be celebrated in a day-long virtual gathering in Northampton, while Amherst is adjusting its usual in-person breakfast and scholarship award ceremony to a format that also promotes health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the Resistance Center for Peace and Justice is organizing the “Uniting the Beloved Community” commemoration in honor of the civil rights pioneer. This will include an hour-long Afro-American history tour by Steve Strimer at the David Ruggles Center in Florence at 10 a.m., and convocations with live music by I-Shae, Irene, Shaikly and Kevin Sharpe, and keynote speakers Arise for Social Justice Executive Director Tanisha Arena and State Sen. Adam Gomez at noon. 

To participate, go to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83743553639. In addition, 11 community workshops focused on social justice from 1 to 4 p.m. can be signed up for at bit.ly/MLK2021WorkshopRegister.

Organizers, understanding the divisive socio-political environment in the United States, aim to celebrate the Movement for Black Lives and the efforts to end systemic racism, poverty and war.

The workshops are being led by regional groups such as Black and Brown Wall Street, NuclearBan.US, the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, Springfield No One Leaves and the Western Mass Area Labor Federation. 

Amherst events

In Amherst on Saturday, the breakfast that has been held annually since 1984, serving as a fundraiser for scholarships for high school seniors who show passion for social justice, is canceled.

But the MLK Jr. Breakfast Committee, with the assistance of Amherst Media, will be broadcasting portions of breakfasts from the past, which include guest speakers who have talked about King’s life and inspiration, youth musical performances, and songs from the Amherst Area Gospel Choir. 

Vira Douangmany Cage, a member of Amherst Media’s board, said that staff at the nonprofit is working to put together these excerpts, with plans to have some newly recorded comments, including from Latoyia Edwards, a Boston television anchor who gave the keynote speech in 2004. 

A process will also be launched, with appeals inserted to the broadcast, for making sure scholarships can be awarded this spring, said Richmond Ampuiah-Bonney, chairman of the MLK Committee of Amherst. This kicked off recently when William Strickland, a retired University of Massachusetts professor and member of Amherst Media, donated $1,000.

People are encouraged to continue to support these scholarships by sending donations to the MLK Committee of Amherst, P.O. Box 3211, Amherst, 01004-3211

Also in Amherst, the Human Rights Commission is holding a virtual bell-ringing ceremony and reading of the 2021 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Proclamation.

The community song, readings and discussions take place at 5:30 p.m. Friday at https://amherstma.zoom.us/j/87948908363?pwd=Y3EyVFBNYUtGT01Ick13N0h0MkVIQT09.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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