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MLK legacy continues here despite pandemic

Kate Cubeta, a member of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Committee, submitted the following essay in advance of the 33rd annual  observance. See also this separate news story:

Martin Luther King Jr.

The 33rd Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Observance in Arlington will not be put off by the pandemic, but it must take place virtually this year.

The robust celebration of our slain civil-rights leader’s life and legacy will be broadcast via ACMi-TV on Monday, Jan. 18, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. It can also be streamed live from the Arlington town website or its Diversity Task Force page. All are welcome to tune in for stimulating conversation, music and song. 

This time, refreshments will be provided for the spirit only.

Since MLK’s last birthday, the intransigence of racial inequities throughout our society has burned into the consciousness of more white people.

Greenidge to be interviewed

The free pass given by law enforcement to home-grown white terrorists invading the capitol and threatening our democracy, compared to the police aggression and even death inflicted on blacks going about their daily lives, is the epitome of racism, injustice and hypocrisy in America.

On the other hand, our white-supremacist president has been voted out of office. The state of Georgia, which once tried to secede from the Union to perpetuate slavery, has just elected its first black U.S. senator plus a second democrat to wrest control of the Senate from the GOP. Change is necessary. It demands hard work, but it is possible.

 People turn to the arts to make sense of life, but the pandemic has largely kept us from experiencing live performance this year. In appreciation of racial awareness, local history and the power of theater, The MLK Committee asked acclaimed playwright Kirsten Greenidge to speak at the observance. She will be interviewed by journalist Crystal Haynes, anchor/reporter at Boston 25 News. Greenidge grew up in Arlington, while Haynes lives in town now.

Kirsten’s potential was not lost on her grandmother who gave her a typewriter at age six. The girl went on to write, direct, and perform plays with her sisters, inviting family and neighbors to buy tickets and watch in their living room. The similarity in the childhood pursuits of Kirsten to her 19th century, feminist, New England forebear: Louisa May Alcott, is worth noting.

Greenidge is an associate professor of playwriting at Boston University. She finds inspiration for her dramas in contemporary issues and language, personal experience and historical figures.

“I like to write about the have-nots, the outsiders,” she has said. The interconnectedness of race and class intrigues her and resonates in her work. She grew enamored of playwriting as an undergraduate at Wesleyan University. Then she honed her skills at the University of Iowa’s distinguished playwriting workshop. Greenidge is also an alumna of the Huntington Playwriting fellows Program.

Three of her plays premiered at the Huntington in Boston -- “Luck of the Irish” (2012), “Milk Like Sugar” (2016) and Our Daughters Like Pillars (2020). She has had commissions from Chicago’s Goodman Theater and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The Big Ten Consortium hired Greenidge to write a play with at least six speaking parts for women, to boost opportunities on stage for actresses. The result was “Baltimore” about a racial incident on a college campus and various students’ reactions and attempts to discuss it. In 2016, Greenidge had the distinction of having three different plays performed simultaneously in the Boston area. She has won an Obie award as well.

Emcee, chorus

The upbeat Rev. Mikel Satcher will emcee the observance. Back by popular demand, the Brotherhood Chorus of the Concord Baptist Church in Milton will entertain with rousing harmonies. 

Consummate pianist Paul White will play "The Anthem of Freedom" to sing along to at home. Acting as bookends to the celebration will be two speakers who were founding members of the MLK Jr. Observance Committee.

Paul Jackson, father to current committee leader Ian Jackson, will give the invocation. Peter Beckwith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Arlington, will provide the benediction.

Pearl Morrison, a third founder of the committee, and the only one who has served all 33 years, will pitch the free-will offering. The proceeds are shared with public organizations and non-profits that pursue the goals of equity, justice and nonviolence personified by Dr. King.

This year there are two ways to contribute. You may go online to the site and request the Arlington MLK Committee page and donate by charge card. Or you may mail a check to the MLK Jr. Birthday Observance Committee, Box 320, Arlington, Mass. 02476. 

Jan. 6, 2021: 33rd King observance Monday: What you can do until then

This essay was published Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2021.

8th graders call for changes in town bylaw to boos...


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