ABOVE PHOTO: Todd Bernstein Founder, Global Citizens 365, Joye Nottage former Director, Phila. MLK Association and Rev. Dr. Malcolm Byrd President, Philly Forum (Photos: courtesy Thera Martin)
By Thera Martin
Normally on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s national holiday in Philadelphia and around the Delaware Valley, there’s so many events and activities to choose from, some people say they had difficulty in past years, deciding which program to attend. This year there’s still quite a few wonderful King Day observances that will take place on Monday, January 17.
However, some organizations that traditionally host activities on the King Day Holiday opted this year to present virtual programs instead.
Rev. Dr. Malcolm Byrd, the president of Forum Philly, a local nonprofit organization, is also one of the leaders of another group, New Conversation on Race and Ethnicity, Inc. (NewCore).
“As the president of Forum Philly, Philadelphia’s forum for faith, law and civics, and co-leader of NewCore, I am pleased to share information about our respective upcoming free virtual programming in celebration of the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Byrd said.“Also, in partnership with WHYY, NewCORE is convening its 2022 annual “Conversations of King: “Give Us the Ballot”” at 1:00 p.m. on January 17.
The robust conversation will be moderated by WHYY-FM community editor, Chris Flood. He will engage regional and local voting rights thought leaders and activists in discussing the current and future state of democratic processes and voting.
Following the panel discussion, community leaders are invited to engage in solutioning conversation. Interested leaders can register at: https://cok-give-us-the-ballot.eventbrite.com.
Todd Bernstein — the founder of Global Citizens 365 and the founder of the King Day of Service program that’s been a popular activity for many Philadelphians for more than a decade — is also a part of the NewCore organization and the program slated for Dr. King’s national holiday this year.
“Because we are in a pandemic, and because Dr. King said in 1966 that of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman,” Bernstein said.
“Because he said that, we are focusing on health justice as part of the King Day of Service, and that will involve free COVID testing, COVID-19 vaccinations and flu shots led by the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia at Girard College. That will obviously be an in-person event.”
“There will be some other activities for children — reading and coloring, while children wait to be vaccinated at Girard College on January 17,” Bernstein continued. “We will also have speeches playing all day at Girard College for adults and others waiting to get vaccinated. First and foremost, our concern is the health and safety of everyone. So many of the initiatives that were originally planned in person, are now going to be virtual. The advantage of doing a number of these efforts virtually means more people can participate, as opposed to having to show up at one specific location.”
Global Citizens 365 overarching theme for this year’s Dr. King Day observance is “Combatting Racism and Building Community,” Bernstein added.
He encourages people to log on for the virtual presentation being conducted under the name of NewCore at WHYY on Monday, because that is the subject they will address at length. Only panelists will be live at the studio. Guests are welcome to join the conversation online.
Forum Philly is convening its 2022 inaugural MLK Commemorative Forum on January 20 at 2:30 p.m., Byrd said. The subject will be “Leading toward Racial Justice through the Beloved Community.”
Thought leader and award-winning journalist Charles Ellison — a host on-air at WURD — will moderate a panel of diverse Christian leaders who are engaged in global, international, national, regional and local efforts to accomplish a more racially just perfect union. Interested leaders may register at: https://justbeloved.eventbrite.com.
Things will be a bit different this year for the Philadelphia Martin Luther King Jr. Association for Nonviolence. The annual symbolic ringing of the Philadelphia Liberty Bell will still happen at 5th and Market Streets.
The program will start at 11:00 a.m. this year and conclude right after 12 noon, once the Liberty Bell has been tapped by this year’s national bell ringer, Gregory Deavens, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross. Kim Sledge, one of the sisters of the famed singing group, Sister Sledge, will open the program with a musical prelude.
The Liberty Bell is located at 526 Market Street. All participants in the ceremony must wear face masks, media representatives included. Governor Tom Wolf, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Mayor James Kenney and Dr. William Tucker, president of the Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence will all have comments featured in video messages that will be played during the program.
Rachel Merrill, soloist, will perform a musical selection. Rev. Mark Merrill, Captain Lisa Forest from the Philadelphia Fire Department will participate in person.
Rev. Dr. Lorina Marshall Blake, president of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation will offer prayers for the nation.
Joye Nottage from the Philadelphia King Association will share remarks, as will Cynthia Macleod, superintendent of the Independence National Historical Park. Pa. State Attorney General Josh Shapiro will be at the Liberty Bell ceremony, along with Pa. State Senators Vincent Hughes, Sharif Street, and U.S. Senator Patrick Toomey.
This will be the 36th annual bell ringing at the Liberty Bell on Dr. King’s holiday.
It would have been the 40th annual Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence benefit and awards luncheon, however due to the continuing rise in positive COVID cases in Philadelphia, the luncheon was canceled for this year.
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