Celebrating Martin Luther King Day 2017 with Philly arts and culture

Terrell Green's 'Must Go On: A Rite of Passage' is coming to the William Way LGBT Community Center on January 16.

This January is an especially important time to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and from a one-man show at William Way to the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Tribute Concert, there are plenty of ways to honor this legacy through the arts.

Here’s glance at our city’s diverse, engaging, and highly accessible weekend of events. (And here’s your guide to volunteer opportunities throughout the city on Monday, January 16. You can pre-register to participate until January 14.)  

Museum celebrations

The African American Museum in Philadelphia offers a special general admission price of just $2 from Saturday, January 14 through Monday, January 16 for its 2017 MLK Weekend Celebration.  On Friday night, in partnership with Reelblack, there will be a screening of Ava DuVernay’s Netflix documentary, 13th (doors at 6pm, film at 6:30pm), with a panel discussion to follow. The weekend, with the theme-question “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” will continue with activities, performances, and workshops at the museum.  

The National Constitution Center, in partnership with Global Citizen 365’s Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service, is also offering a special admission price and activities on January 16, when entry to the museum will be $5 and include all exhibits, performances, and activities (here’s the schedule).  Highlights include a diverse ensemble of local actors, both students and professionals, for live readings of the “I Have a Dream” speech at 12pm and 2pm.

Must Go On

On January 16, performer and teaching artist Terrell Green also partners with Global Citizen 365, alongside the William Way LGBT Community Center, to present his one-man show, Must Go On: A Rite of Passage. Happening at 5pm at William Way (1315 Spruce Street), the show fuses yoga, African dance, spoken word, video, and a live DJ “to explore the direct link between gender identity and one’s mental/physical wellness.”

Green tackles his own experiences with racism and homophobia, and offers a post-show panel discussion about masculinity in the black community.

A new Orchestra tradition

For the fourth year, the Philadelphia Orchestra will honor King with its free Tribute Concert at Girard College on January 16, to conclude the Day of Service. It’s happening at 1:30pm in the Girard College Chapel, and free tickets will be available to reserve in advance beginning at noon on January 10.

Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will conduct the 90-minute performance, featuring double bassist Xavier Foley and the Choir of the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. Storyteller Charlotte Blake Alston will perform excerpts of the “I Have a Dream” speech, accompanied by Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. For the first time, the concert will include the sounds of the Girard College Chapel Aeolian-Skinner organ: Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs will perform Barber’s Toccata Festiva, which was composed for the Girard organ’s inauguration in 1960.

For those at home, the show will also be broadcast live on WRTI 90.1 FM.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Want previews of our latest stories about arts and culture in Philadelphia? Sign up for our newsletter.