MLK Day, Lunar New Year, JUNKSPACE, and History After Hours for the weekend and beyond

4 minute read
Damien Sneed will help commemorate MLK at the Annenberg Center. (Photo courtesy of Damien Sneed)
Damien Sneed will help commemorate MLK at the Annenberg Center. (Photo courtesy of Damien Sneed)

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and the days around it, tend to be a great time to reflect. And I’ve got a list of upcoming events for you to help reflect and remember his legacy and the resounding impact of the civil rights movement. Additionally, there are a handful of other events happening around the city, including Penn Museum’s celebration of the Lunar New Year—yet another chance to reflect.

Events for Martin Luther King Jr. week(end)

Mishkan Shalom and the Grounded Theater Gospel Choir

Mishkan Shalom, a synagogue affiliated with the Reconstructing Judaism movement and with a commitment to racial justice, will honor the memory of Dr. King with a weekend of programming focusing on racial justice. On Friday, January 17, the Grounded Theater Gospel Choir from Middle Passage, a one-woman show created, produced, and directed by Mishkan member Jackie Jonas, will bring storytelling, dance, drumming, and gospel music focusing on the diaspora of African Americans and the role of the Black church.

Saturday will feature Shabbat morning services with guest speaker Reverend Naomi Washington-Leapheart, director for Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs.

Both services are open to the public.

We Shall Overcome

The Annenberg Center will present We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. on Friday, January 17 at 8pm. The event will feature music traditions that inspired generations of civil rights activists and defenders. Damien Sneed, recipient of the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, will lead the night with spoken word weaving Dr. King’s speeches, traditional and modern gospels, classical, jazz, Broadway, and spirituals. Sneed will be accompanied by a list of talented musicians, and you check out the lineup online.

Read, Write, Resist!

The African American Museum in Philadelphia has a full weekend of experiences exploring the value of literacy in the movement to resist injustice and embrace history. On Friday at 7pm, AAMP invites poet Kirwyn Sutherland for a (free) reading from his forthcoming book Jump Ship (I’ve heard some of his new work recently—he’s pretty amazing). On Saturday at 10am-5pm, AAMP hosts a service project to create care packages for families in the city, and Sunday at 1pm features performances from jazz vocalist and composer Ruth Naomi Floyd, violinist Diane Monroe, poet Ewuare X Osayande and vocalist Warren Cooper that will honor the journey of knowledge and wisdom of Dr. King and the civil rights movement.

Monday concludes with a list of events including a scavenger hunt, a re-enactment of Dr. King by Carlo Campbell, an MLK memorial concert, and more, centered on the theme of “Read. Write. Resist!”

Philadelphia Jazz Project

MoAR welcomes vocalists and musicians from the Philadelphia Jazz Project for We Shall: A Lyrical MLK Celebration on Saturday, January 18 from 3pm. The performance, merging excerpts from Dr. King’s speeches and sermons with gospel, jazz, blues, and more, comes as part of a weekend-long celebration.

Visitors can learn about James Forten, a prominent abolitionist and Black Philadelphia businessperson, read about America’s first published Black female poet Phillis Wheatley, and listen in on Tableau Talks in the museum’s galleries for stories on free and enslaved people of African descent who fought for freedom during the Revolutionary War.

MLK at Eastern State

Eastern State Penitentiary will commemorate Dr. King with three days of free community programs beginning Saturday, January 18. Readings of Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” open up to visitors's responses on its contemporary relevance, while additional programming includes family art-making, children’s stories, musical performances, and more.

And for the rest of the week(end)

CultureFest! Lunar New Year

Celebrate the Year of the Rat at the Penn Museum with a lineup of CultureFest! Lunar New Year festivities. This Saturday will feature traditional dance and music performances, martial arts demonstrations, storytelling, calligraphy, zodiac workshops, and more usher in the new year. See the full lineup online.

CultureFest! Lunar New Year features traditional dance and music performances, martial arts demonstrations, storytelling, games, calligraphy and zodiac workshops, a vendor fair, and “creation stations” with crafts for all ages, such as rat mask-making and lantern-making.

History After Hours at the MoAR

The Museum of the American Revolution is hosting a traditional Irish ceilidh on Tuesday, January 21 at 5-8pm as part of their monthly after hours event. The social gathering promises dancing and storytelling and encourages guests to wear their finest ballroom attire (though not required). The Timoney Irish Dancers will perform a blend of traditional and contemporary Irish dances set to festive folk tunes, and In Good Company’s Niel De Marino will teach the dances so that everyone can participate.

Fill up on hot chocolate, spiked eggnog, and happy hour specials at the Cross Keys Café, and treat yourself to Irish-inspired foods and cocktails. Grab tickets online ahead of time or at the door.


Philadelphia Dance Project’s Dance Up Close series kicks off on Wednesday, January 22 at Christ Church Neighborhood House with Tori Lawrence’s multimedia performance JUNKSPACE. The csite-collaborative piece merges score-based composition and disembodied sound with a “rugged athleticism” and “haunting minimalism.” The interactive experience has performers guiding the audience from different vantage points utilizing the entire space. It’s an environmentally-based work that pushes the audience to look at using space in a sustainable and imaginative way.

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