Performances, poetry slam, teen summit highlight Peabody’s MLK celebration

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Martin Luther King Jr. strove to raise awareness about public health concerns and urban environmental issues that disproportionately affect minorities and low-income communities. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” he proclaimed.

Local organizations will be on hand to demonstrate how environmental justice entails equal access to relief and community participation in the decisions of government and industry at the 23rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy of Environmental and Social Justice, presented by the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, in partnership with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The annual celebration will take place on Sunday and Monday, Jan. 20 and 21. Sunday’s program runs from noon to 4 p.m.; Monday’s from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thanks to support from presenting sponsor Citizens Bank, the event is free and open to the public.

In addition to performances and educational activities, there will be a poetry slam, teen summit, and drumming circle. During the program the museum will also display works by the winners of an art contest that asks high school students to draw an image of a contemporary leader who inspires them.

The list of activities follows. Unless otherwise indicated, the events will take place at the Yale Peabody Museum, 170 Whitney Ave.

Sunday, Jan. 20

World Stage Performances:

  • 12:30 p.m. Gammy Moses, a native of Dominica, will lead the audience in a drum circle.
  • 1:30 p.m. WORD, a Yale performance poetry group, will address social justice themes.
  • 2 p.m. Red Supreme Team will engage the audience in a hip hop performance.
  • 3 p.m. Kouffin Kanecke, known for teaching important values through music, will present African dance and drumming that involves kids and grownups alike.

Teen Summit

The Peabody’s 10th annual Teen Summit takes place Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. in Yale’s Kroon Hall, 195 Prospect St. All teenage youths are invited. Planned in partnership with Citywide Youth Coalition, Students for Education Justice, and the Peabody’s EVOLUTIONS after-school program, the event will focus on the role of young people in social movements and how to get involved in organizing in New Haven. Teens will have an opportunity to share their thoughts and let their voices be heard. Pre-registration is required; teens must attend with a staff person from their school or youth group. Register for the Teen Summit here.

Monday, Jan. 21

World Stage Performances

  • 10:30 a.m. Thabisa Rich. Inspired by gospel and pop music from her homeland South Africa, Rich’s performances are a blend of African soul, jazz and original music.
  • 11:45 a.m. Paul Bryant Hudson, New Haven native and founder/organizer of Sofar Sounds New Haven, will perform soulful music, including numbers he wrote himself from his own life experience. In his music Hudson expresses rage at the persistence of racism and offers a route to inclusion and equity.
  • 1 p.m. Steppin’ Out, a Yale step team, specializes in this African American dance form derived from the celebratory and religious practices of African dancers. The group was founded in 1997 with the goal of introducing the dance form to the Yale community.
  • 1:15 p.m. Hamden High students will perform a step dancing routine.
  • 1:30 p.m. Yale Jashan Bhangra, a cultural Yale dance troupe, will perform the energetic dance known as bhangra that has roots in hip hop and pop.
  • 2 p.m. Nfinity Muzik, a brother duo, will perform hip hop with positive vibes.

Drum circle finale

Michael Mills will bring the celebration to a close at 3 p.m. with a participatory drum circle followed by a drum finale.

Michael Mills drumming with children
Michael Mills

Open Mic and Poetry Slam

The Zannette Lewis Social and Environmental Community Poetry Open Mic will take place at 11 a.m. The Zannette Lewis Social and Environmental Professional Poetry Slam, featuring poets from around the country, will follow at 12:30 p.m..

Storytelling — New Haven Museum, 114 Whitney Avenue

The New Haven Museum and Historical Society at 114 Whitney Ave., a half block from the Peabody, will host the storytelling portion of the Peabody celebration Monday at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Admission will also be free. Waltrina Kirkland-Mullins and Joy Donaldson will present inspirational stories relating to the legacy of African-American slavery and the civil rights movement, with songs of resistance and audience participation woven in.  

Art contest

This year’s art contest is open to at all high school-aged youths in Connecticut and will be curated by local artist and activist Kwadwo Adae of Adae Fine Art Academy. Art must be received by Friday, Jan. 18, and accompanied by a registration form. Download the Art Contest registration form here (PDF)

The contest honors the living legacy of the civil rights movement by showcasing contemporary leaders — people whose actions, protest, words, or work inspire and motivate. Entries are encouraged that celebrate an individual who made or is making a difference on a less public scale, such as the current-day freedom fighters in one’s own community. Using pencil, crayon, markers, colored pencils, inks, or watercolors, students should create a picture of a person they would like to honor and, in a sentence or two, explain why that individual inspires them.

The top 12 submissions will be displayed at the Peabody during the two-day MLK celebration. Cash prizes and t-shirts will be awarded to the top three submissions.

Visit the Peabody website for a complete schedule and updates as they occur.