Activities for all ages added to Martin Luther King Jr. Day events in Portland

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PORTLAND — There will be expanded programming for kids this year as part of the local NAACP branch’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration Jan. 18.

This year marks the 29th annual breakfast celebration in honor of the murdered civil rights leader. And while the traditional speakers engage the adult set, children ages 4 through 14 can learn about healthy eating and living, nonviolence and compassion.

The Beloved Community Children’s and Youth Breakfast was created through a collaboration between the NAACP Youth Group and Pious Ali, the founder the the Maine Interfaith Youth Alliance and an adviser to the youth group. It will take place at the Holiday Inn By the Bay, the same place where the annual adult breakfast occurs.

“There has always been a place for kids, but it has not been engaging,” said Ali, who offered activities during the breakfast last year and decided to expand on that idea for 2010. “I wanted the kids to do more.”

Children 4 through 8 can attend the Healthy Eating Healthy Living program, facilitated by storyteller Cathryn Falwell. The kids will have breakfast and learn about nutrition, cooperation, family togetherness and counting.

Older kids, ages 9 through 15, can attend a workshop with Anne Sibley O’Brien, author of “After Ghandi, One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance.” The group will explore nonviolence and building compassion.

It will also offer participants the opportunity to participate in year-long projects, including Art Connect, which will team kids with residents of Bayview senior housing for art and literacy projects. Another program, A Gift of Lunch, connects kids with Preble Street Soup Kitchen for monthly volunteer work. A third program, Drugs, Guns and Violence, will be a cooperative effort with the NAACP, the youth alliance and local police to provide education on substance abuse and prevention.

All participants will receive a copy of O’Brien’s book. The cost for each participant is $15, but Ali said scholarships make it possible for any child to take part. For more information, e-mail or go to

The 29th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Celebration will feature keynote speaker Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a professor at Princeton University and author of “Barbershops, Bibles and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought.” She is working on her second book, “Sister Citizen: A Text for Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Politics When Being Strong Wasn’t Enough.”

The breakfast begins at 8 a.m. at Holiday Inn By the Bay on Spring Street. Tickets are required and can be purchased for $25 at the Portland NAACP office at 75 Washington Ave. or by calling 253-5074. For more information, go to

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or