January 12, 2022

Princeton Offers Array of Events to Celebrate MLK Jr.’s Life and Legacy

By Donald Gilpin

Paying tribute to the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and promoting a national day of service, a number of events will be taking place throughout the Princeton area both virtually and in person during the next week.

The federal holiday, which seeks to move the nation closer to the “community” that King envisioned, is officially celebrated on Monday, January 17. It is intended to be a day where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to learn about King’s life and his teachings of nonviolence and social justice, while seeking to improve lives and bridge social barriers.

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) will commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 17, with a community bagel breakfast, art and history activities, and a canned food drive.

The free breakfast will begin at 10 a.m. with participants of all ages invited to engage in hands-on art and history activities, including Emblem Making and Protest History with the Historical Society of Princeton and a poster and lawn sign-painting station celebrating King’s teachings. Participants will decorate signs with well-known quotes by King to take home and display on their lawns or in their windows. 

ACP Executive Director Adam Welch emphasized the importance of the ACP’s role in bringing art into the community. “With our cherished Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, we have the important opportunity to raise the voice of a powerful leader,” he said. “Through this event and town-wide public art installation, we will truly embody our mission of building community through the arts.”

As part of the MLK National Day of Service, ACP attendees are invited to bring with them non-perishable items for a canned food drive to benefit RISE NJ Food Pantry, whose mission is to provide services and facilitate community partnerships in order to help families and individuals recover from setbacks, overcome obstacles, and achieve their full potential.

The ACP program is funded by Princeton University, the Princeton Humanities Council, and the University’s African American Studies Department. The Arts Council’s Paul Robeson Center for the Arts is located at 102 Witherspoon Street.

The annual Multifaith Service to honor King’s legacy will be held online again this year and will feature the Rev. Dr. David Latimore, director of the Betsey Stockton Center for Black Church Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, starting at 7 p.m. on Monday, January 17.

The service will also include faith leaders and music from a wide range of faith traditions and is expected to last until 8:30 p.m. Latimore’s sermon is titled “A Life of Hard Choices.”

Co-leading the service, which has been taking place for more than three decades and is sponsored by the Princeton Clergy Association and the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), will be AME, Baha’i, Baptist, Christian Science, Jewish, Muslim, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ faith leaders.

“We are thrilled to have such a prominent faith leader as our preacher this year, as well as a diverse group of faiths represented in the leadership for this year’s service on the official holiday for Dr. King’s birthday,” said CFPA Executive Director the Rev. Robert Moore. “We will also have powerful and uplifting music. We strongly encourage interested people from all backgrounds to participate.”

Visit peacecoalition.org to find further information and the Zoom link to enable participation in the Multifaith Service.

Friends of Princeton Open Space will be hosting A Day of Service in Nature in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on January 17 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Volunteers will help continue the restoration of the lakeshore at the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve at 57 Mountain Avenue. Participants will work under the guidance of Natural Resources and Stewardship Director Anna Corichi to remove invasive plants and install deer-exclusion caging around native tree and shrub saplings. Visit fopos.org and click on “Events & Programs” for registration and more information.

Thomas Edison State University in Trenton will be hosting a Second Annual Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. on Tuesday, January 18 at 11 a.m. The virtual discussion — see “In the News” at tesu.edu for registration — will feature the Rev. Dr. Charles Boyer, pastor of Greater Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church in Trenton and the founder of Salvation and Social Justice. The discussion will focus on health equity; diversity, equity and inclusion issues; the pandemic’s effect on Trenton residents; and King’s mission as it relates to the Trenton community.

Promoting a theme of “Make it a day on, not a day off,” HomeFront is promoting “meaningful ways to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King and help families under the specter of homelessness in our community.”

HomeFront is offering two virtual Zoom activities on Monday, January 17: an “Everyone Counts” packing event from 10 to 11 a.m. and a “Celebrating Diversity” art event from 1 to 2 p.m. The packing event will involve preparation of snack bags for homeless families, and the art event will be a collage-making workshop. “All you need is colorful paper, scissors, glue, and a willingness to learn and trust the creative process,” according to the HomeFront website. Visit homefrontnj.org, email christinaj@homefrontnj.org, or call (609) 989-9417 x107 for further information.

Also offering a day of service in following King’s example is the West Windsor Arts Center (WWAC) in partnership with the African American Parent Support Group and the West-Windsor-Plainsboro youth chapter of the NAACP.  Participants are instructed to sign up and find further information through the WWAC website westwindsorarts.org, then complete their projects in advance and deliver them to the WWAC between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on January 17.

Projects include “Healthy Bedtime” kits for RISE Community Services, “Handmade Warmth” for the Children’s Home Society of NJ, “Young Man’s Personal Care” kits for PEI Kids, “Mom’s Personal Care Kit” for Womanspace, “First Aid” kits for Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, and “Basics for Babies” kits for the Millhill Child and Family Development Center.

The WWAC also announced its “Art Against Racism: Manifesting Beloved Community” exhibition on display through February 26, with an opening reception on January 16.  Presented in partnership with Art Against Racism, the exhibition was inspired by King’s “beloved community” and it “imagines what it would be like to live in a world where social and economic justice flourish and structural racism ceases to exist,” according to a WWAC press release. The opening reception will be held at the WWAC and streamed live as well. For more information, visit westwindsorarts.org.

On Monday, January 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. the Capital City Area Black Caucus (CCABC) will be holding a Zoom meeting on the topic  “What would Dr. King say if he were alive today?” There will be remarks from CCABC founders, faith leaders, business leaders, elected officials and government leaders, leaders of community organizations, and other members of the general public. For more information and Zoom links contact Sam Frisby at (609) 638-0644/samtess97@gmail.com or John Bailey at (720) 629-0964/johnbailey062@gmail.com.

The Hopewell Gives Back MLK Day of Service for 2022 is sponsoring a hybrid event to benefit five local nonprofits: Sourland Conservancy, I Support the Girls, Seeds to Sew International, the Rescue Mission of Trenton, and HomeFront. Volunteers can find more information and sign up to participate virtually or in person on Facebook @HopewellGivesBack or on the Hopewell Gives Back website at hopewellgivesback.weebly.com.

The state of New Jersey Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Commission will be hosting a virtual event titled “The Fierce Urgency of Now” on Sunday, January 16 from 3 to 5 p.m. featuring New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way. Highlights will include a round table discussion on health disparities, musical performances, and special announcements, all honoring King’s life and legacy.  Registration for the free event is available at hopin.com/events/njmlk2022.