Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK takes center stage

As previews for “The Mountaintop,” a play inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., are taking place at the Bernard B. Jacob Theatre in NYC’s Broadway theater district, ASU is readying for its annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2012.

The ASU MLK, Jr. committee has put out the call for nominations for an MLK Servant-Leadership Award to be presented to an ASU student, with a $1,000 award, at ASU’s MLK breakfast on Jan 13, 2012. Nominations are due Mon, Oct. 3.

“The Mountaintop,” by playwright Katori Hall, had its world premiere in London, and earned the 2010 Olivier Award for best new play. Its official Broadway opening takes place Thurs, Oct 13. “The Mountaintop,” a title that references one of King’s most powerful speeches, is directed by Kenny Leon.

Leon’s directing credits include “Fences,” a show well-loved by Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, known to Valley Broadway fans as executive director for ASU Gammage. Jennings-Roggensack is Arizona’s sole Tony Award voter and head of ASU’s MLK Jr. committee.

“The Mountaintop” features original music by jazz instrumentalist and composer Branford Marsalis. It stars Samuel L. Jackson (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) and Angela Bassett (Camae) — both of whom serve on the “Dream Team” for the Martin Luther King, Jr. national memorial being dedicated in Washington, D.C. on Sun, Oct 16.

Tickets for The Mountaintop, which opens Oct 13, are now available

The play is “a gripping imagining of events” the night before King’s assassination in 1968. It depicts an exhausted King retiring to his motel room one stormy night after delivering one of his most memorable speeches, only to receive an unexpected visit from a mysterious stranger with suprising news that forces King to “confront his destiny and his legacy to his people.”

Hall shared in a Q & A article published online by The Juilliard School that she “wanted to depict not only Dr. King’s triumphs but also his struggles.” She hopes people who see “The Mountaintop” leave feeling that they, and everyone around them, can “be a King, too.”

It sounds a lot like the spirit of ASU’s MLK Servant-Leadership Award. “The importance of the MLK award,” says Jennings-Roggensack, “is to remind us that every single day throughout the year, we can hold true to Dr. King’s legacy and continue to make the communities, the country and the world we live in a better place.”

She references a letter King wrote from a Birmingham jail in April of 1963, something that makes compelling reading today and reminds us all of King’s call to servant leadership — and says the MLK committee is looking for ASU students who make contributions beyond the school community to the larger community we all share.

Past MLK Servant-Leadership Award recipients have included a student who set up diabetes clinics in Guadalupe, a student dedicated to helping women and children escape domestic violence, a student committed to the environment and social justice who worked to clean up local communities, and others.

Jennings-Roggensack, whose work frequently takes her to NYC, says she’s excited about attending opening night for “The Mountaintop.” Her admiration for Katori is evident, as is her delight with the fact that three African American women playwrights currently have works being performed on Broadway. “It’s a long time coming,” she reflects.

We’ve yet to realize the full measure of King’s dream within American society, but recognizing students and others who are moving his mission forward is a step in the right direction. Keep walking, and pause often to invite others to join you.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the ASU MLK Servant-Leadership Award, here to learn more about “The Mountaintop” on Broadway, here to learn more about the national MLK, Jr. memorial and here to read The Juilliard School’s Q & A with playwright Katori Hall.

Coming up: Christie mysteries from New Jersey to Gilbert, What’s a Zoot Suit?, Scottish writer tackles suicide tales, Best new offerings on Broadway


Only the inside should matter

One of several bookmarks honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. -- created by ASU from K-12 student entries in their most recent MLK, Jr. Day poster-essay contest

I was struck by this simple sentiment as I enjoyed the online gallery of winning writings and artwork from an MLK poster-essay contest sponsored by Arizona State University.

After putting out the call last fall to K-12 students throughout the state, ASU received more than 17,000 entries. Students were invited to submit an essay about someone they know who “leads through service to others.”

The 24 winners will be honored Thurs, Jan 20, at a special event with ASU president Michael Crow and other special guests, including the students’ parents, teachers and principals.

Winners receive a savings bond and prize ribbon, and enjoy the satisfaction of seeing their work displayed both online and at two Valley locations — the Memorial Union at ASU in Tempe and the Student Union at ASU Polytechnic in Mesa.

The exhibits, being held Jan 18-31, are free and open to the public. They’re part of a month long celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy.

Other January events that are part of ASU’s celebration of MLK, Jr. Day include a march, a reenactment of MLK’s “I have a dream…” speech, a food drive, a film screening, a theater performance and a poetry jam. (Click here for event details/locations.)

Justice poster by a Gilbert senior named Amanda

Each sounds plenty inspiring, though I find the greatest meaning in simply enjoying the words and pictures of students who recognize the importance of justice, service and lifelong learning to the ongoing march towards greater civil and human rights for all people.

Many of the elementary school winners, including 2nd grader Miriah, live in Mesa.

Miriah wrote about a friend named Stephanie — who delights in giving free haircuts to those in need, including homeless people in her own hometown and people as far away as Africa. “I want to be like Stephanie when I get older,” writes Miriah.

Another 2nd grader, Brooke, wrote about grandparents and other family members who assemble “hygiene kits” for people effected by natural disasters, while a 2nd grader named Brady wrote of a grandfather who collects “coloring books, balls, food and toys” for children in Mexico.

“My dad,” writes 4th grader Annie, “is the best example of service I know. His name is Dad.” Annie says that her dad “volunteers for all sorts of things.” Annie’s essay describes how her dad spends his time — “and its not watching television.”

A 5th grader named Jenah wrote an essay praising a coach named Kyle. She describes him as “a kind, amusing, elated, brave man.” “Whenever I am with him,” writes Jenah, “I learn something new.”

Another 5th grader, Tanner, wrote about his grandfather picking up trash each day as he takes a walk through the neighborhood — and his grandmother sewing “very, very big quilts” for those who need them.

Abigail, a 6th grader, wrote about her 20-year-old sister — detailing Sam’s work with Best Buddies, Locks of Love and other programs that help Valley youth. Abigail notes that despite Sam’s busy schedule, “she can always take me to my classes and my plans.”

Many of the middle and high school students who won hail from Scottsdale, including a 7th grader named Sanket who wrote about Dave, a man who often reads to children and tells them stories.

Rachel, an 8th grade student, wrote about her father’s work with organizations like Make-a-Wish and Parents of Murdered Children. “I believe what my dad does to help people…makes the world a better place.”

A 10th grader, also named Rachel, detailed the work of a doctor who organized people to help victims of last year’s earthquake in Haiti after years of working with “disabled adults” in that country. 

She writes as well of the importance of education — “I feel that in a country where we are so educated, we should take that education to help and teach other countries that don’t have the same opportunities as we have.”

A 1oth grader named Allysan wrote about a family friend in college who raises money to help victims of genocide in Darfur, while 10th grader Ema offered words about her sister that reveal insights into the role of youth in shaping the future…

“The early stages of our life determine who we are,” writes Ema, “and who we are going to be in the years to come.”

“The fate and future of the world,” she adds, “resides with the youth of today.”

— Lynn

Note: Families will one day be able to visit a Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on the Washington Mall in Washington, D.C. To learn more about the nature and development of this memorial, click here.

Coming up: Local exhibits of children’s art inspired by MLK, Jr. Day

Arizona celebrates civil rights

Arizona has the distinction of being one of the last states to adopt the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday.

While some say we’ve yet to make enough progress in the area of civil rights, plenty of Arizonans are eager to celebrate MLK, Jr. Day on Monday.

Families have all sorts of options — from events taking place at local arts venues, community centers and museums to events taking place at Arizona colleges and universities.

Those who prefer to spend MLK, Jr. Day doing community service can check with volunteer organizations about available opportunities to assist with projects ranging from trash pick up to assembling care packages for folks in need.

The following links will help you find ways to celebrate MLK, Jr. Day with your family — this weekend and throughout the month of January:

Performing arts venues holding MLK, Jr. Day celebrations include Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and Mesa Arts Center.

Universities holding MLK, Jr. Day celebrations include Arizona State University (which has diverse events taking place all month), Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona.

UA in Tucson holds “The Power of a Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. March and Festival” Mon, Jan 17 from 8:30am-4:30pm.

The event kicks off with a welcome on the UA Mall, followed by a 9am march from the UA Mall to Reid Park. Festival activities take place 10:30am-4pm.

UA notes that the 2011 march and festival “will honor Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of the shooting that occured on Jan. 8.”

ASU festivities include an awards ceremony for K-12 winners of a statewide essay-poster contest, a student rally and a children’s march on the campus mall. 

Volunteer organizations offering MLK, Jr. Day volunteer/community service opportunities include HandsOn Greater Phoenix and the Volunteer Center of Southern Arizona.

Volunteer slots are filling up quickly so don’t delay if this is something you’d like to make a part of your family’s day.

If your community is hosting an arts-related MLK, Jr. Day celebration not featured here, please comment below to share brief details with our readers.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. Click here to learn more about the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coming up: Dreaming Darwin, Musings on “mature content” musicals

I ♥ art volunteers

We take them for granted too often—the docents who lead our museum tours, the ushers who show us to our theater seats, the other arts volunteers in our communities. Like all non-profits, arts organizations rely on volunteers to help achieve important goals—helping at-risk youth create visual art, offering music lessons to students living below the poverty level, presenting live theater to children with special needs.

You’ll hear a lot about volunteering this month because Jan. 18th has been designated the Martin Luther King, Jr. King Day of Service. President Obama, as part of his United We Serve initiative, is asking Americans to make the King holiday a “day on” instead of a “day off.” Rather than taking a day off work for purely leisurely activities, consider joining fellow Arizonans volunteering in your community that day.

Non-profits of all sizes and service areas—from health care and housing to education and the arts—need volunteers to further their work, to do more good for more folks. “Do what you can,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt, “with what you have, where you are.” You have time. You have talents. Why not share them with your local arts community?

There are plenty of ways to find an arts organization that could use your energy and ideas. Think about the arts you’re most interested in—whether dance, music, theater, visual arts or something else—then consider the organizations and venues that are making good things happen in the areas you love.

Finding a volunteer gig—whether short or long term—can be as simple as picking up the phone to ask whether there are any needs or volunteer opportunities. Not to worry if you feel less than perfectly qualified. Most organizations offer volunteer training and ongoing guidance to enhance your skills and offer support. Consider taking a friend of family member along if volunteering alone seems too boring or intimidating.

I often see the good folks of major corporations like Home Depot, APS, SRP, Wells Fargo and others out there volunteering in their company t-shirts. They enjoy the double benefits of giving back to the community and showing off their community-minded spirit. This year, I’d love to head out and see a sea of volunteers wearing t-shirts of theater, music, dance and other arts organizations.

There’s no denying that the arts, including many Arizona arts organizations, have been hit hard by tough economic times—so we tend to think of ourselves as the folks who need the extra support. But what if we really went out this year and showed our friends and neighbors that we like to give every bit as much as we like to get. Artists are so generous of spirit, yet so under-recognized for this quality.

I was privileged several years ago to see a dear friend, Max Dine, M.D., honored with a Hon Kachina Award for his outstanding volunteer service as a mental health advocate. The Hon Kachina Council notes that “over 350 nominees have been honored for their dedication to causes that include health care, neighborhood revitalization, youth and senior activities, the arts, education, justice, housing, nutrition or social services.”

I was surprised, in checking the list of past recipients, that there aren’t more arts volunteers among them. We all know they are out there. Have we been remiss, perhaps, in not taking time to recognize our arts volunteers with nominations for this and other awards? You can fix that this year, since nominations for the 2010 Hon Kachina Awards are being accepted through Jan. 29th. (Complete details are at their website.)

Remember my sea of t-shirts fantasy? I confess to having another one. I’d like to see awards committees inundated with nominations of worthy arts volunteers. We want people to know the arts are engaging our citizens. We want our volunteers to know how much we appreciate them.

The 9th Annual Governor’s Volunteer Service Awards program is accepting nominations through Jan. 15th for the following categories: “lifetime achievement, youth, youth group, outstanding mentor, adult, adult group, large business/government agency, non-profit, faith-based organization, national service member, and/or service-learning project in your community.”

Who do you know that deserves consideration for this Governor’s award? I’ve nominated folks who didn’t get the award, but were still touched when they received a letter from the governor honoring their service and their nomination. “Everybody can be great,” said Martin Luther King, Jr., “because anybody can serve.” Whether or not their service gets recognized is up to you and me.

Maybe you’d like to do more volunteering yourself, but need help locating volunteer opportunities well matched to your skills, interests and schedule. Here are a few folks you can check with about where help is needed and how you can get involved…

• HandsOn Greater Phoenix @ www.handsonphoenix.org (Check out their information on ‘Give a Day, Get a Disney Day’ volunteer opportunities.)

• Phoenix Volunteers @ www.phoenixvolunteers.org

• Volunteer Match @ www.volunteermatch.org (The day I surfed for volunteer gigs, they had the most arts-related volunteer opportunities.)

As you consider ways to spend the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday, remember this Greek proverb: “A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit.”


Note: If you’re with an arts organization seeking volunteers, check out the Arts & Business Council of Greater Phoenix, a chapter of Americans for the Arts. The council “links the vitality and expertise of the business community to non-profit arts and cultural organizations to the benefit of both individually and our community as a whole.”