African American Museum in Philadelphia takes its MLK Weekend Celebration virtual

The online events will run Jan. 16 to 18 and will feature family-friendly activities, a documentary screening, poetry and more.

The African American Museum in Philadelphia

The African American Museum in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The African American Museum in Philadelphia is taking its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend Celebration virtual this year.

This is the 15th year that the museum has collaborated with Citizens Charitable Foundation, a philanthropic organization, to honor MLK’s legacy.

The online events will run Jan. 16 to 18 and will feature family-friendly activities, including a screening of the documentary, “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” a reading and discussion with the city’s poet laureate Trapeta Mayson, along with a virtual tour of the museum’s latest exhibit, “Rendering Justice.” 

During a press conference on Thursday announcing the events, Citizens mid-Atlantic president Daniel K. Fitzpatrick gave the museum $30,000 on behalf of the foundation, which will help keep the museum’s MLK programs free and open to the public.

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“Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become an even bigger focus for so many during this tumultuous time, and the museum has put together a program that addresses the gravity of these issues while also paying tribute to the legacy of Dr. King,” Fitzpatrick said.

The event’s theme this year poses the question, “What can we do for others?” which takes inspiration from King’s words, that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘what are you doing for others?” This theme will be explored through a virtual service project done in collaboration with the Smithsonian.

“AAMP would like to thank Citizens for their commitment to making our programming accessible to the community,” said Sabrina Brooks, chair of AAMP’s Board of Directors. “We look forward to building upon the important discussions about the Black experience while honoring Dr. King’s remarkable contributions.”

The MLK Weekend events will kick off daily at 10 a.m. with a reading from Philly’s Theatre in the X, a West Philly theater program aimed at removing barriers to the arts. It will then be followed by a daily “dreamline workshop” in which youth mentors will help people reflect, share and create their own “dream banner.”

The morning portion of events will wrap up with an online service project, Transcribe-A-Thon, where volunteers will transcribe the Freedmen’s Bureau Records from the National Museum of African American History and Culture into searchable and machine-readable resources to learn more about the archives and what it teaches us about our history. The bureau was created by Congress in 1865 to assist Southern states during Reconstruction and help formerly enslaved people transition to freedom and citizenship. It will also assist in making the documents text-searchable online to ensure the historic materials are more accessible.

Also available via stream throughout the weekend is a conversation with Philadelphia Phillies players, including Andrew McCutchen and Milt Thompson. The discussion will focus on the intersections of race, baseball and social justice in the United States today.

The museum’s MLK events will conclude on Monday, Jan. 18 with a keynote discussion, “Black Art and Visions of Freedom” featuring Dr. Nicole Fleetwood, a writer, curator and American Studies and Art History professor at Rutgers University. Fleetwood will discuss the connections between African American visual artists and collectives to Black freedom struggles in the 20th and 21st centuries. After Fleetwood’s presentation, selected artists from the museum’s “Rendering Justice” exhibit will discuss their work, along with a Q&A opportunity for attendees.

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You can find more details of the African American Museum in Philadelphia’s MLK weekend plans here.

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