MLK Jr. Day celebration in Portland will fill weekend

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PORTLAND — The schedule has changed from past years, but the message will remain the same when the city branch of the NAACP observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

A weekend of events will be capped at 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18, with the 35th annual celebration at Holiday Inn by the Bay, 88 Spring St. This year, a traditional holiday breakfast has been replaced by a dinner, which will include a keynote speech by Mayor Ethan Strimling.

Rachel Talbot Ross, president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the dinner will emphasize this year’s theme of “The Global Struggle for Freedom.”

“We are trying to connect Dr. King’s work in this country and globally, to think about what it means to be free,” Talbot Ross said.

Also speaking at the dinner will be University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings and University of Maine Law School Dean Danielle M. Conway.

Talbot Ross said the evening will also address the rise of xenophobia at the city, state and national levels.

The dinner will be emceed by Billale Fulli, a junior at Deering High School, and Mary Kanda, a senior at Portland High School, Talbot Ross said.

There will also be two programs for children at the Holiday Inn, the first from 2-4 p.m., and the second during the dinner.

Tickets for the dinner are $60 and can be bought online at bit.ly/MLK-Portland.

The weekend activities will begin with a 7 p.m. concert Friday, Jan. 15, at Merrill Auditorium, 18 Myrtle St.

The gospel concert will feature performances by King Middle School’s Knightlife Ensemble and Chorus, singer-songwriter Samuel James, the Green Memorial AME Zion Church choir, and students from Casco Bay High School singing with the chorus Women in Harmony.

Tickets are $12 in advance and $17 at the door.

The concert will be emceed by Casco Bay High School junior Fatuma Omar and McAuley High School junior Priscilla Isimbi.

A youth summit entitled “I Am My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper,” will be held at USM at 12:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16.

The summit, at the Abromson Community Center, 88 Bedford St., will include Strimling, Cummings and interim School Superintendent Jeanne Crocker in a discussion about “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative introduced in 2014 by President Barack Obama to improve education and economic opportunities for disadvantaged males.

Led by the Martin Luther King Jr. Fellows youth group, the summit will address ways to implement My Brother’s Keeper locally, and expand the message to include young women.

There will be a “Know Your Rights” presentation, individual breakout sessions and a discussion with Strimling. Summit objectives include finding places for youth to interact, detailing efforts by local youth to promote racial equity and identifying next steps and who needs to be involved in meeting objectives. 

Preregistration is required for the summit at bit.ly/MLK-Youth-Summit.

There will also be a Jan. 27 screening at Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., of the documentary “More Than a Month.” The film by Shukree Hassan Tilghman details his cross-country journey in support of ending Black History Month. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. show, and admission is free.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Mayor Ethan Strimling will deliver the keynote address at the 35th annual NAACP celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland on Monday, Jan. 18.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.