Honor the vision, celebrate the life

News Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

Martin Luther King’s Birthday isn’t like other holidays. What other holiday is known for being a day of service, “a day on, not a day off”? No overeating, no watching sports, no revelry, just a lot of people trying to make a splendid dream more real.

An estimated 135,000 volunteers, a national record, will take part in 1,800 community service projects around the area Monday, say organizers of the 20th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service. “The 1,800 projects being organized throughout the region reflect individuals and organizations turning community concerns into civic activity,” said Todd Bernstein, founder and director of the King Day organization.

This year, the day takes on a more somber tone in the shadow of the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, so the observance in Philadelphia will include a protest march through Center City.

The service projects and other programs that have been the holiday’s hallmark will go forward as usual. Here are a few:

Girard College/Philadelphia Orchestra. For the sixth year, Girard College has been designated the day of service’s “signature site,” the focal point for the regional observance. Five thousand volunteers already have signed up for the 150 projects at the school. To honor the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, volunteers will work on nonpartisan projects promoting voting, such as making signs for polling places and filling envelopes with voter information. The campus at 2101 S. College Ave. in North Philadelphia will also host a health and wellness fair. To volunteer for a project, or projects at other sites, you can register online at

Yannick Nézet-Séguin will conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra in a free concert at 1:30 p.m. in the Girard College Chapel. The program will include the world premiere of a selection from One Land, One River, One People by jazz trumpeter and composer Hannibal Lokumbe, commissioned by the orchestra. Tickets are first-come, first-served, and are limited to four per person.

Rutgers-Camden. Rutgers University-Camden will sponsor a wide range of projects, including serving meals and organizing at a neighborhood center, cleaning a vacant lot in the Lanning Square area, replacing the fence around an Underground Railroad site in Lawnside, and participating in youth projects. Registration begins at 8 a.m. at the Campus Center, 325 Penn St. Breakfast will be provided. Open to students, faculty, staff, and members of the public.

African American Museum in Philadelphia. The museum’s Sharing the Heritage Celebration and Day of Service, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., aims to involve all ages in honoring the struggle for equal rights. Admission is free, courtesy of Citizens Bank. There will be dance, drama, and music, and visitors are invited to tour the museum’s main exhibit, “Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia, 1776-1876.” Donations of food for Philabundance and books for Philadelphia Reads are welcome. The museum is at Seventh and Arch Streets., 215-574-0380.

Bartram’s Garden. About 100 volunteers will clean out invasive vines and plants on the fence line of the home of 18th-century botanist and horticulturist John Bartram, said Todd Greenberg, chief gardener at the historic site. This is the seventh year Bartram’s Garden has worked with the King Day organization. The project runs from 9 a.m. to noon, with pizza for volunteers from noon to 1 p.m. Bartram’s Garden is at 54th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard. State Penitentiary. One of the most memorable of Dr. King’s writings was his stirring “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” Professional actors will read excerpts from the letter three times a day – at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. – Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Tickets to the readings are free and available online for a $1 processing fee, or at the door. There also will be activities for children ages 7-12 and their families from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, also free. No reservations required. Eastern State Penitentiary is at 2027 Fairmount Ave., 215- 236-3300.

National Constitution Center. The Constitution Center will host a daylong celebration of Dr. King and his legacy from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. It will include readings of the “I Have a Dream” speech by local actors and college students at noon and 2 p.m., an interactive musical program at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and a performance by a united choir of New Jersey religious congregations at 3 p.m. The museum is a drop-off point for school supplies to aid Philadelphia public schools; visitors are invited to help the staff prepare them for delivery. Special admission is $5, courtesy of Macy’s, for full access to the museum and all King Day activities. 215-409-6700 or

Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Art Museum will host a family celebration from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, with art-making, family tours, and a 1 p.m. performance by the St. Thomas Gospel Choir. Take the opportunity to see the exhibition “Represent: 200 Years of African American Art,” highlighting selections from the museum’s holdings. Free, after museum admission.

On Monday, the museum will mark the Day of Service from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. as visitors make greeting cards to be distributed by MANNA, which delivers meals to people with serious illnesses. There will also be family tours and performances by Danco2 at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Free, after “Pay What You Wish” museum admission.

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