Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday is an annual opportunity to reflect on the legacy of the great civil rights leader. It’s not necessarily a holiday to be festive, but an occasion to think seriously about where Black Americans were before King, how he changed the lives of average folks and where America must go from here.
The actual day is Jan. 16 but many events are held the week before and after. Here is a list of events in Connecticut to honor the legacy of King. The list is not all-inclusive.
King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech will have a community reading on Jan. 13 from noon to 1 p.m. at New Haven City Hall, 165 Church St., in an event presented by Greater New Haven Peace Council. The speech condemns militarism and extravagant military spending. Free. Reserve a spot at eventbrite.com.
Novelist-performance artist Junauda Petrus, winner of the 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Award, is the special guest at the Westport Country Playhouse’s 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, on Jan. 15 from 3 to 5 p.m. Free, but RSVP required. westportplayhouse.org/show/mlk2023.
“Health Disparities: The Racial, Economic, Cultural and Social Causes” is the theme of the MLK Birthday Celebration 2023 presented by Glastonbury MLK Community Initiative. The event will be Jan. 15 from 3 to 5 p.m. at Smith Middle School, 216 Addison Road in Glastonbury. Speakers are Dr. David Williams and Dr. Tekisha Dwan Everette. A documentary “Summers of Freedom: The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. in Connecticut” will be screened and Glastonbury Madrigals will sing. Admission is free but attendees are asked to bring a nonperishable food item for the Glastonbury Food Pantry. glastonburymlkci.org.
“Envisioning the World House,” an event with live music, activists, speakers, poets, hip-hop artists, youth leaders and muralists, will be Jan. 15 from 4 to 6 p.m. at 224 EcoSpace, 224 Farmington Ave. in Hartford. Suggested donation $15, 11 and younger free. Presented by the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence. ctnonviolence.org.
The 27th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy of Social and Environmental Justice will be commemorated by New Haven Museum, 114 Whitney Ave. in New Haven, in collaboration with Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. On Jan. 15, with events from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., the lineup is storytelling by Joy Donaldson, Waltrina Kirkland, and Clifton Graves; performance by Ms. Hanan’s Dance and Beyond; and exhibits of specimens from the Peabody’s paleobotany collection. On Jan. 16, the action moves to Yale Science Building, O.C. Marsh Lecture Hall, 260 Whitney Ave. in New Haven, with events from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.. Poets Croilot and Ngoma will perform, followed by a poetry slam with competitors including Ray Jane, Lyrical Faith, T’challa Williams and Ameerah Shabazz-Bilal. Masks required both days. Free. peabody.yale.edu/events/mlk-celebration.
Vanessa Roberts Avery, the first Black woman to hold the position of U.S. attorney for Connecticut, will lecture on “Learning to Live Together” at a virtual celebration on Jan. 16 at 8:30 p.m., presented by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Heritage Foundation. Moderator is Keith Kountz of News Channel 8. Proceeds benefit the Branford Food Pantry, Feed Branford Kids and Fuel Assistance. Admission is $15, $5 for students. Tickets: facebook.com/MLKBreakfastCommittee.
“Still We Rise,” the 38th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast, which raises scholarship funds for African-American female high school seniors in Greater Hartford, will be Jan. 16 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Connecticut Convention Center, 100 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford. Guest speaker is Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley. Presented by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Hartford Alumnae Chapter. $35 to attend virtually, $65 to attend in person. 2023hacmlkbreakfast.eventbrite.com.
A Bell Ringing and Award Ceremony will be held at the state Capitol in Hartford, on Jan. 16 from 10 a.m. to noon. Dr. Bernard LaFayette Jr., a veteran of the civil rights movement, will attend remotely to receive the Civil Rights and Champion of Nonviolence Legend Award. Victoria Christgau, founder and executive director of the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence, will win the Social Justice Leadership Award. Free. ctnonviolence.org.
The 24th annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life will be held Jan. 16 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at West Hartford Town Hall auditorium, 50 South Main St. Keynote speaker is Vanessa Dorantes, the first African American to serve as commissioner of the state’s Department of Children and Families. Others participating in the celebration are Mayor Shari Cantor, Rev. Fredd Ward of First Church of Christ Congregational West Hartford and Dr. Lorna T. Farquharson of West Hartford Board of Education. Students who will give presentations about MLK are Afaf Albur of Conard High and Zella Jackson of Hall High. Performances by Conard High Jazz Combo, King Philip Middle School Singers and Hall High Choraliers. Artwork, essays and poems from town schools will be on display. The event is sponsored by West Hartford African American Social & Cultural Organization, Town of West Hartford, West Hartford Public Schools, West Hartford Human Rights Commission, Witness Stones West Hartford and Concerned Parents of Color of West Hartford. West Hartford Community Interactive will air the event live on Comcast Channel 5, Frontier Channel 6095 and on YouTube. Details: email@example.com.
MLK Day of Dance, presented by the Connecticut Dance Alliance, will be held at CREC Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, 15 Vernon St. in Hartford, on Jan. 16 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The day, held to honor African American contributions to dance, will have master classes in Afro-Caribbean, stilt walking, popping, Horton technique, modern and capoeira. Participating artists include Peter Reynolds (Studio 860), Thulani Davis (Spectrum in Motion Dance Theater). Christine Kershaw (Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School), Stephen Hankey (Island Reflections Dance Theatre Company), Lauren Horn (subira.vs.movement) and Mellissa Craig (Judy Dworin Performance Project). $25 for CDA members, $35 for nonmembers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington St, will hold a free Community Day “Celebrating the Life & Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” on Jan. 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The day of art-making, music and learning will emphasize love, empathy and community. nbmaa.org.
Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor St. in Hartford, will host a day of film screenings and discussions about the civil rights movement from 11 a.m. to about 4 p.m. “Mighty Times: The Children’s March” is at 11 a.m. “Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot” is at noon. A discussion of the films will follow at 1 p.m. “Soundtrack for a Revolution” is at 2 p.m., followed by a discussion. Art-making activities will be available all day. Admission is free. Lunch can be purchased or brought from outside. realartways.org.
Martin Luther King Jr. Community Day will be at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main St. in Hartford, on Jan. 16 from noon to 4 p.m. Art-making, performances, dance by Dejavé Dance Company and tours of the exhibit “Art and Activism at Tougaloo College” at the Amistad Center for Art & Culture, which is inside the museum. Attendees can help create a portable mural honoring Civil Rights icons. Free admission to museum all day. thewadsworth.org.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service will be presented by Mandell JCC, 335 Bloomfield Ave. in West Hartford, on Jan. 16 at 1 p.m. Participants ages 8 and older will put together care packages for Hands on Hartford. Please bring socks, snacks and a loaf of bread. RSVP by Jan. 13 at email@example.com.
Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities will hold a children’s March and Bell Ringing Ceremony for Unity on Jan. 16 at 1 p.m. at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 59 Main St. in Cheshire. Free. facebook.com/CTCHRO.
Ridgefield Playhouse, 80 East Ridge, will hold its 27th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration on Jan. 16 from 3 to 4:30 p.m., with musical and dance performances. Free. ridgefieldplayhouse.org.
Martin Luther King III will be the keynote speaker at a MLK commemoration on Jan. 18 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Yale University’s Woolsey Hall, 500 College St. in New Haven. Admission is free but reserve a spot at eventbrite.com.
Susan Dunne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.