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Pop Filter Hot Pick: Celebrating MLK Day in and around Pittsburgh

Why you should go: There are so many ways to celebrate and honor the life, legacy and spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and not just on one day of the year. Whether you prefer a personal experience or a public celebration, Pop Filter presents this roundup of creative, meaningful and free events happening around town on Monday, January 20th.

Feeling adventurous? Start the day in East Liberty, pop into Schenley Park, head Downtown and make your way over to the North Side.

1. Kelly Strayhorn Theater

The Kelly Strayhorn Theater presents its 5th annual East Liberty Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from noon to 4 p.m. Centered around the theme of “Every Voice Counts, Every Story Matters," the free celebration features engaging activities and performances for all ages. Participate in hands-on art and community-building projects at eight activity stations in the theater's lobby, led by event partner organizations who are committed to social justice, including the MGR Foundation, Garden of Peace Project, Love Front Porch, Union Project, Assemble, Literary Arts Boom and North Way Christian Communities.

Add your ideas about Pittsburgh, art and social justice to a Visual Community Survey, use your voice to share a positive message about where you live, create a group collage, decorate a wooden hand, share your future dreams and more. Additional activities include Garden of Peace Project's MLK Jeopardy, the Union Project's Ceramic Hands and writing and drawing projects with Literary Arts Boom. At 2 p.m., enjoy onstage performances by talented regional youth ensembles, including Hope Academy, CHANCE, 1Hood Media, Soundwaves Steelband and Dreams of Hope. The theater's first KST FAMILYtime event of 2014, East Liberty Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. draws more than 400 community members annually.

2 Union Project

Also in East Liberty is the Union Project’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration, called Share Your Voice. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., this year's event is focused on a creating open dialogue, fostering connectivity and offering creative activities. Join the Union Project to meet new people from diverse backgrounds and be a part of a safe and inspiring community dialogue. Inspired by Dr. King’s vision of the beloved community that can be achieved through nonviolence and that loves others simply for who they are, the event will celebrate the many diverse and unique voices of Pittsburgh.

The dialogue session will be introduced by diversity consultant and researcher Anupama Jain. The Union Project's artist in residence Evan Church, and Tirzah DeCaria from Creative Citizen Studios will help lead a discussion on bridging gaps between cultures. Participants will listen to inspiring stories from community members who use art to bridge gaps between cultures and will practice new ways of communicating, sharing their voices and listening to others. Sit across from someone new and try different community building exercises including drawing a portrait, writing a poem, or simply asking questions. Reflect and break bread with your neighbors and new friends. After brief remarks and a song, guests will enjoy a community meal together.

Share Your Voice will also feature child-friendly art activities in the Union Project's ceramics studio, works by the new Braddock Art Lending Library and the site's Artist in Residence programming. RSVP recommended.

3. Schenley Park

Ready for some thoughtful recreation? Lace up those skates and enjoy the day at Venture Outdoors' 12th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the Park at the Schenley Park Ice Rink. Running from 1 to 4 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the Park is presented by Venture Outdoors and the Student Conservation Association (SCA).

Free and open to the public, the welcoming celebration provides time for attendees to relax, get active, spend time exploring one of Pittsburgh's legendary parks and enjoy refreshments and music by DJ Nick Nice. Featured activities include ice skating, snowshoeing and hands-on educational and art projects the celebrate and reinforce the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

All children under 18 must bring a signed Parental Release Form to the event. To reserve a space for your group or for a registration packet with parental permission forms, call 412.255.0564 ext. 0 or email: info@ventureoutdoors.org.

4. August Wilson Center for African American Culture

Teaming up to celebrate art of the African Diaspora, Downtown's August Wilson Center for African American Culture and Friends of Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti are presenting a free family-friendly event from 1 to 6 p.m. Take a tour of Haiti's Artists Envision the Natural World, a new exhibition exploring the interaction and interdependence between rural Haitians and the natural world. On view in the Center's second floor, the exhibition features vibrant and colorful paintings and metal sculptures that convey the deep connections that exist between Haitian people and the trees, plants, flowers and animals that surround their homes, courtyards and villages.

From 2 to 3 p.m., enjoy a lecture by noted historian John Ford, who collects historical coins, books and documents that date back 8,000 years. Ford will present the talk, Fostering the Dream: History and a Contemporary Analysis, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Formerly director of the Senator John Heinz History Center's education division, Ford has also worked with the education and advisory board at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum. Ford is the recipient of the New Pittsburgh Courier's “Fifty Men of Excellence” award as well as the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society's “History and Genealogy Award."

Newly added to the event's lineup is a sing-along program led by acclaimed actor, writer, director and producer Wabei Siyolwe. From 3:30 to 4 p.m., Siyolwe will lead attendees in a handful of interactive Freedom Songs, including This Train, Anybody Seen My Old Friend Martin, We Shall Overcome, Merci Bon Diye and more.

From 4 to 5 p.m., attendees will enjoy a gallery talk by Lucy and Ian Rawson, who will illuminate the creative expression of Haitian artists, and also discuss the deep respect for nature by Haitian artists. Lifelong volunteers at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti, Ian volunteers as a hospital administrator, while Lucy serves as an arts patron in Haiti's Artibonite Valley. President of the Friends of Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, which maintains an office and an art gallery of Haitian art in Point Breeze, and works in collaboration with Hôpital Albert Schweitzer to support Haitians in the Artibonite Region of Haiti, Lucy has helped found a reforestation project in the valley's steep mountain villages.

Also featured will be a free children's activity area for kids ages 5 to 10.

5. Mattress Factory

Cross the bridge and head to the Northside to catch the Mattress Factory's Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Bash from noon to 4 p.m. To honor MLK's enduring visionary spirit, the art museum is opening up its doors for a special "pay what you can" event, inviting the community to celebrate the life and legacy of one of the world's most significant historic figures--and to enjoy some delicious birthday cake.

Collaborate on a dream mural, decorate a birthday crown, sample sweet cake, and participate in an admiration exchange. Also, be sure to explore the museum's room-sized multi-sensory installation art, play in a new mobile pop-up space and learn all about the museum's new programs for 3-6 year olds at the Mini-Factory Launch Party. Kids, are you ready to groove? Join the Kid City Rockers indie dance party led by DJ KellyMom. Dance your heart out to everything from The Cure to Bob Marley during Pittsburgh's premier indie dance party for kids and families.

Admission: Give what you can (donations appreciated).
6. Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Head over to Northside neighbor the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh for a day filled with special music, art and spoken word activities celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. From 10 a.m. to 4 :30 p.m. in the museum's Studio, make art that celebrates Pittsburgh's Freedom Corner, the historic Hill District intersection of Centre and Crawford Streets that became a symbol of the home of the Civil Rights Movement.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the museum's lobby, step up to the historic mic to read from Dr. King’s powerful and inspiring speeches as well as listen to others read aloud. Experience the power of Dr. King’s words and vision during this annual program hosted by The Saturday Light Brigade radio program. Also from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., SLB will present a brand new program called Steaming Justice--a live, four-hour webcast exploring civil rights accomplishments, challenges and dreams for the future. Hosted by local teens, Streaming Justice will include music, conversation and listener phone calls, and will air live on Jan. 20th at slbradio.org and www.tinyurl.com/tuneinslb.

From noon to 3 p.m. in the Studio, join the Union Project's Many Hands project to create a clay bird that symbolizes your own dreams. Birds will be photographed and displayed at the museum. Next, enjoy a dazzling performance by the Hill Dance Academy Theatre--and even learn a couple dance moves yourself--at 2 p.m. in the museum's theater. Be sure to join the Freedom Circle and sing songs from the Civil Rights Movement with Sister IAsia at 3 p.m. in the Studio.

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