Six Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2015

Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in western Massachusetts, 2015

Next week, the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 19th, 2015, presents families with a three-day weekend. Instead of spending your extra day off sleeping in and lazing around the house, highlight the historical significance of the holiday for your family and find a way to make it meaningful. Families can find special events and service opportunities taking place across western Massachusetts, each of which presents students with the chance to learn experientially about the history of oppression in our country, community activism, and the importance of kindness and a commitment to serve others. Here are six ways to celebrate with your community and family in meaning ways in western MA:

1.) Old Sturbridge Village will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day early, on Sunday, January 18, 9:30am-4pm . Explore the Village as an early New England town in winter and pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. by seeing characterizations of important 19th-century individuals who played significant roles in the movement to abolish slavery. Storyteller Tammy Denease Richardson (pictured here) will portray Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman, a young slave woman living in Sheffield, Massachusetts who won her freedom in a landmark 1781 court case. There will also be portrayals of Abby Kelley, a 19th-century abolitionist, and William Lloyd Garrison, a founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society. 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road. Sturbridge, MA. ($$)

2.) The Berkshire Community College Service-Learning and Diversity Committee is holding their second annual MLK Day of Service beginning at 8:30am on Monday, January 19th. BCC students and employees will participate in the day of service, and there are spots open to those outside the BCC community as well. This year, there will be three service sites: The Harvest Table, where a free community lunch will be served; Habitat for Humanity, where volunteers will work to revitalize a local home; and Dower Square, where volunteers will work with young children to spread Dr. King’s message. Call for more information and to register. 413-236-2177. 55 Fenn Street. Pittsfield, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

3.) In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there will be a Day of Service in Northern Berkshire County, at the MCLA Church Street Center from 9am-2pm on Monday, January 19th. All ages can come work on a variety of community service projects, including sewing mittens, making military care packages, putting together meal kits for food pantries, decorating placemats for senior programs, as well as activities that take place off-site, at the YMCA, the Adams Youth Center, and other places around town. This service day is a great chance to get the whole family engaged in community service projects to benefit a variety of causes. Call for more information. 413-664-4006. Church Street. North Adams, MA. (VOLUNTEER)

4.)  Greenfield Community College will host their Annual Celebration of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, January 19 from 10am-1pmActivities and programs for children and families will be available from 10am-noon and the day will conclude with lunch and presentations in the Dining Commons. 413-775-1819. One College Drive. Greenfield, MA (FREE)

5.) Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services, Community Music School of Springfield, and D.R.E.A.M. Studios are hosting the annual Dr. King Day Celebration at the MassMutual Center from 11am-1pm on Monday, January 19th. There will be music, dance, and spoken word by Freedom Choir, Springfield Mass Choir, CMSS String City Youth Orchestra, Dream Studio, MLK Charter School of Excellence Choir, Springfield Public Schools students, MLK Family Services/Community Music School choral workshop students, and others. This celebration helps to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. and aims to create positive change in the community as people come together. 413-732-8428. 1277 Main Street. Springfield, MA. (FREE)

6.) American Friend Service Committee’s Annual Celebration of the legacy of  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of non-violent work from 9am-4pm on Monday, January 19th. Events include a guide talking tour of Florence, children’s program at the Florenc Community Center, a panel discussion at Edwards Church, concluding with a reception and vigil at the Unitarian Universalist Church. If you are interested in participating or volunteering this MLK Day, or just have any questions, call 413-584-8975. Florence/Northampton, MA (FREE)

No matter what kind of activity you choose to do to celebrate MLK Day, it’s important to be sure that your family shares an understanding of the significance of the act. Of course, children will need to know some of the history behind the holiday, but the amount of depth with which they understand it will vary based on their age. In addition to learning about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and accomplishments, try to identify together some of the themes threaded through his work. A discussion of the importance of kindness and gratitude alongside an examination of your family’s role within the community can be especially useful – children will be inspired to find ways to share some of King’s big ideas with those around them. Once your family is inspired, transfer their enthusiasm into accomplishments and further learning!

To expand your family’s learning at home, visit your local library and look for these titles:

Also check out these service-focused MLK Day lesson plans, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Episode of the Hilltown Family Variety  Show.

[Photo credit: Storyteller Tammy Denease will portray “Mum Bett” at Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations at Old Sturbridge Village on January 20, 2014.  (cc) David Burk]

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