Fort Wayne organizations provide outlets for celebrating MLK Day

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What started as a day off in 1986, has since become a day on, and people across the US have made strides to keep the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alive. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, residents and visitors can participate in a variety of events from commemorative concerts to movie screenings that will teach about or exemplify the teachings of the slain Civil Rights leader.

Commemoration Concert at Plymouth Congregational Church

The concert, slated for Jan. 19, 2020, will take place at Plymouth Congregation Church, 501 W. Berry St., Fort Wayne, Indiana. Performances will begin at 4 p.m., and the event is scheduled to end at 6 p.m. Among the performers are the Reverend Bill McGill, who will deliver some of King’s iconic speeches. Heartland Vocal group will perform. The event is free.

A Day On at Saint Francis University

The university’s students and staff invite the public to a talk from Chris Singleton as part of its week of commemoration. Singleton, according to the Visit Fort Wayne website, is a former Chicago Cubs baseball player who lost his mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton in the Emanuel AME church shooting in 2015.

The university’s events for MLK week includes a showing of “Selma” the next day, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. More information and a full roster of the university’s events are available at https://www.sf.edu/mlkday/

MLK Day and legacy at the Embassy

“Selma” is a popular film during the days and weeks of remembering King. The Embassy Theatre will show the film Jan. 20 at 5 p.m. The showing kicks off a week of films that “inspire us and spark conversation.” The film series is planned to run through August.

Fort Wayne area libraries and museums do their part for MLK Day

Among the events at Allen County Public libraries will be showings of King’s “I Have A Dream Speech” at the Pontiac Branch of the library. This is a must-attend for those who have never heard the oration in its entirety. The speech will illustrate King’s passion and vision for a society that embraced the idea of Civil Rights for all, even as Jim Crow laws in the American South and other segregationist practices were commonplace elsewhere. In addition, there will be crafts that attendees can work on independently.

While exploring public history certainly has its benefits, attendees to various MLK Day events can also delve into their personal histories, at least of their families. The main branch of the Allen County Public Library, which has one of the largest genealogy departments in the US, invites the public to research their family histories.

More information on African-American history can be gained by visiting the African/African-American Society Museum. Located at 436 E. Douglas St. in Fort Wayne. The museum is open by appointment only, so give them a call at 260.348.4465. The museum is now an Arts United affiliate, according to its entry at Visit Fort Wayne. It also houses the city’s largest collection of African art.

It is worth noting that Dr. King did have an actual connection (however brief) with the city of Fort Wayne. In 1963, he visited Fort Wayne and spoke at the Scottish Rite Auditorium, where the University of Saint Francis houses some of its downtown campus.

Longtime Fort Wayne residents no doubt have a parent, grandparent, or even great-grandparent who remembers the day King came to the Summit City. His words and presence helped to galvanize local citizens and leaders to protest systemic racism found in hiring practices at Fort Wayne companies and in the segregation still found in some schools.

MLK Club marks MLK Day

The Martin Luther King Club of Fort Wayne will host a day of speeches, vendors, “youth explosion” and more as part of their 35th annual Dr. King Unity Celebration. Among the special guests are author Nic Stone, diabetes specialist Dr. Rudy Kachmann and Pastor Lewis A. King of Tenfold Coalition. For more information on events and prices, visit the group’s website: http://www.mlkclub.com.

People who drive through downtown Fort Wayne have been treated to the changing colors and inspired architecture of the Martin Luther King Jr. bridge.

There are a variety of ways to celebrate the upcoming holiday. All of the celebrations in Fort Wayne manage to temper the “fun” of the activities with the seriousness of the man and his legacy, and the message that cost him his life.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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