A dance to Dr. King: Parties to celebrate MLK Day of Service

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a 1965 demonstration at Girard College protesting the school's then-discriminatory admissions policy. Girard College embraces MLK Day by focusing on King's activism in the name of education.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a 1965 demonstration at Girard College protesting the school's then-discriminatory admissions policy. Girard College embraces MLK Day by focusing on King's activism in the name of education. (JOHN W. MOSLEY, courtesy of Temple University Libraries)
Posted: January 18, 2014

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the 20th century's saint of civil rights, told the world about the dreams he had, the list didn't include being lionized alongside American presidents such as Lincoln and Washington. It didn't include a holiday bearing his name on which all Americans, of whatever race, would celebrate the freedoms that only racial equality provides.

While most of the MLK Monday holiday is dedicated to events humble, honorable, and often tinged with spirituality, there are parties throughout the weekend that include the sort of respectable dance-centric festivity worthy of King's potent message. Here are a few of them:

The 19th Annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service. The Philadelphia public school system is a mess. It needs money to run, its teachers need to be inspired, its students need to focus, and parents need to lead the way. So, North Philly's Girard College embraces MLK Day by focusing on King's activism in the name of educational equality and necessity.

A large portion of the Girard Day of Service is designed to give props to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that forever barred racial segregation in public schools. While the college hosts a job drive (in collaboration with Drexel University's KEYSPOT Program) and a workshop from the Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters (a local organization famous for demonstrating against Girard College itself in the days of the school's former discriminatory admissions policy), the main event is the Philadelphia Orchestra's 24th Annual MLK Tribute Concert.

Taking place in the Chapel of Girard College, the free show features traditional spirituals and rousing classical compositions from Aaron Copland ( Fanfare for the Common Man) and Samuel Barber ( Adagio for Strings). Seating is general admission, first-come, first-served, and limited to four tickets per person (you can start here for tickets: www.philorch.org/mlk). All they ask is that you bring some school supplies.

Events begin at 8:30 a.m. at Girard College, 2101 S. College Ave. with the Tribute Concert in the Chapel starting at 1:30 p.m. Information: 215-787-2600, www.girardcollege.edu .

Hip Hop Fundamentals at the African American Museum. If academia and hip-hop were ever looking to merge, with audience participation as the principal goal, the Philly-based Hip Hop Fundamentals breakdance and teaching troupe would lead the way. This group of educators and movement artists use the art of locking, popping, freezing, and down-rocking, along with elements of theater and spoken word, to teach the good word of youth empowerment, anti-bullying, and fairness to all, in the name of Dr. King.

Noon at the African American Museum, 701 Arch St. Tickets: Free. Information: 215-574-0380, www.aampmuseum.org.

MLK Day Pop-Up Shop 2014. The phrases "MLK Day" and "Pop-Up Shop" don't readily trip off the tongue - until now, that is. The Mission Incorporated group of teachers, lawyers, nonprofit and business executives, dedicated to providing "start-up, management, and fund development services to nonprofit organizations and small businesses" (so says their website, www.missionincdevelopment.com), have gathered together to collect gently worn used clothing, household goods, and canned foods for sale at their "King Cash" grab. You have all weekend to drop off donations at Mission Incorporated, 5537 Germantown Ave., Second Floor (call 267-331-5971 to confirm a drop-off). The Pop-Up will operate on MLK Day at Mediator Lutheran Church on North 28th Street.

11 a.m. Monday at Mediator Lutheran Church, 2832 N. 28th St. Tickets: Free. Information: 267-331-5971, www.missionincdevelopment.com.

Global Influence's God's Children Shall Dance. Aquatic house music mistress Venus7, the pride of Philly's DJ scene, leads the groovy list of illustrious spinners working the turntables in honor of Dr. King. Joining Lady V and Woody's host-with-the-most Chenelle LeoMoon, are New York City titans of the mix Ray Vazquez (from Justus Worldwide) and Donna Edwards (of Lovehouse fame).

6 p.m. Sunday at Woody's, 202 S. 13th St. Tickets: $5 before 7 p.m., $10 after. Information: 215-545-1893, www.woodysbar.com.

The Lawnside Historical Society MLK Day. Lawnside borough in Camden County - the oldest incorporated African American municipality in the northern U.S. - has its own special connection to King. On the day of his funeral service, April 9, 1968, Lawnside Board of Education, under president Morris L. Smith, passed a resolution that designated King's birthday, Jan. 15, as a holiday, and forwarded the resolution to the King family. With that, the Lawnside school board is believed to have become the first governmental agency in the United States to celebrate King as such. For this MLK Day, Smith and others who recall that day will discuss King's impact on their community and American society at large.

10 a.m. Monday at Lawnside Public School, 426 E. Charleston Ave., Lawnside. Tickets: Free. Information: 856-546-8850, www.petermotthouse.org.

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