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Boston celebrates Martin Luther King Day

City events include breakfasts, concerts, community service-a-thon

Boston celebrates Martin Luther King Day
Martin Luther King Jr.

It was 47 years ago that two black Boston churches, Union United Methodist Church and St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church commemorated fallen civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. with a breakfast aimed at bringing together people of all faiths and races in what was then a divided city.

From that first breakfast, which came a full 14 years before King’s birthday was recognized as a federal holiday, Bostonians have embraced King’s legacy with an increasing number of commemorations, including prayer services, lectures and concerts.

The following is a listing of commemorative events that will be held in Boston next week.

Author: Photo: Julia ChengParticipants in the 24th annual Martin Luther King Breakfast, hosted by the Union United Church and St. Cyprians Episcopal Church sing in this Banner file photo.

The 47th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast

The 47th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast is Boston’s premier event dedicated to the memory of King. It also is the nation’s longest-running King commemoration. The breakfast features speeches, food and live music, and is attended by a diverse gathering of civic, community and religious leaders from across Massachusetts.

This year’s speaker will be Callie Crossley, commentator and TV/radio host. Crossley was a producer for Blackside Inc.’s “Eyes On The Prize: America’s Civil Right Years,” and was a former producer for ABC News 20/20. She is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, who guest lectures at colleges about politics and media literacy.

Event proceeds fund student scholarships and community programs sponsored by St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church and Union United Methodist Church.

Time: 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Date: Monday Jan. 16, 2017

Location: Boston Convention and Exhibition Center at 415 Summer Street, Boston

Price: $50/person now until Jan. 15; $55/person at the door

Tickets can be obtained from Rudelle Fenty at (617) 445-7282 or at

Boston University’s Martin Luther King 47th Celebration Concert

Randall Keith Horton , former Bostonian and the world’s leading expert on Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music, will conduct selections of the works at the 45th annual “Hope, Despair and the Blues” Martin Luther King Celebration Concert. The event is sponsored by Boston University and the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground. First held in 1972, this event is believed to be one of the longest-running Martin Luther King celebration in the nation.

Duke Ellington considered his Sacred Music, “the most important thing I have ever done,” yet it was rejected by critics who felt that “a person who belongs in the clubs has no business writing music for the church.” Horton is Ellington’s former assistant composer, conductor and pianist and the custodian and champion of Ellington’s Sacred Music for more than 30 years. He will share introductory remarks on Ellington’s little-known and underappreciated compositions before leading the Boston University Big Band, the Inner Strength Gospel Choir, a tap dancer, several interpretive dancers and three narrators in the swinging, devotional, worship music. The concert is free and open to the public on a first-come first-served basis, and space is limited.

In addition to selections from Ellington’s Sacred Music, Marvin Gaye’s powerful version of the Star Spangled Banner, sung at the 1983 NBA All Star Game, will be remembered. There will be a number of student selections performed as well as remarks by local playwright Kirsten Greenidge, whose plays “Milk Like Sugar” and “Baltimore” have been recent hits on Boston stages.

“Thanks to Randall Keith Horton, our Boston University staff and students not only have been introduced to Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music, we have been immersed in the actual hopes, dreams and history behind Ellington’s pioneering compositions,” said Victor Coelho, professor of music and chair of musicology & ethnomusicology. “Mr. Horton was Duke Ellington’s assistant composer, conductor and piano player. He sat knee to knee with Ellington and traveled briefly with the band. He was commissioned by Ellington’s son Mercer to write the only full-length concerto grosso of Ellington’s opus work ‘Black, Brown & Beige’, and by Ellington’s sister Ruth to concertize and perform her brother’s Sacred Concerts.”

“As the world’s leading expert on Ellington’s Sacred Music, he is uniquely qualified to bring the music and its healing message to life with his first hand experiences with Ellington and the stories behind the music. It has been a privilege to work with him and hear him perform such an important piece of Ellington’s musical legacy.”

According to Katherine Kennedy, director for the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground, “To have an expert of Mr. Horton’s stature share Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music and its message of love, tolerance and healing, pays a timely and meaningful tribute to the legacies of Duke Ellington, Dr. Martin Luther King and Dr. Howard Thurman — men who dedicated their lives to creating meaningful, shared experiences with the power to break down the barriers that separate people.”

Horton overcame adversity, growing up in the Roxbury/Dorchester section of Boston, to become a musical scholar, composer, conductor and historian. From his early work with musical greats Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, Michael Jackson and The Jackson Five, Horton soon found his greatest fulfillment, championing the Sacred Music of Duke Ellington and sharing his love of music as a knowledgeable historian. He created and hosts the American Music television series on PBS affiliate KRCB-TV and CUNY-TV to highlight the accomplishments of American musicians, composers and scholars. He serves as special advisor to The H. Wiley Hitchcock Institute for Studies in American Music at Brooklyn College and the Associated Scholar American Music Research Center, University of Colorado, Boulder. Horton continues to support the works of late folk singer/songwriter Kate Wolf, and for more than 30 years, has championed the pioneering Sacred Music of Duke Ellington.

For additional information on Horton and the American Music television series, please go to and respectively. For additional information, please visit

Time: 2 p.m.

Date: Monday Jan. 16, 2017

Location: Boston University Metcalf Hall in the George Sherman Union; 775 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston

Boston Children’s Chorus 14th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert

Hamilton actor Nik Walker to sing alongside BCC youth

Mayor Martin J. Walsh will welcome guests to Boston Children’s Chorus’ 14th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert: “How I Got Over.” Nik Walker, a member of the ensemble and an understudy in Hamilton on Broadway, will narrate and sing, accompanied by BCC singers. The concert will be conducted by Anthony Trecek-King, BCC artistic director and president.

“We are honored to have Mayor Walsh in attendance to introduce this signature Boston event and our chorus’ longest-running annual concert,” said BCC Managing Director Celeste Wilson. “And having Boston local and professional Broadway performer Nik Walker rehearse and perform alongside our young singers has been an amazing opportunity for our students.”

Before King gave his now-famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington, the legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson performed the song “How I Got Over.”

Trecek-King said, “We hope BCC’s performance of this song on January 16th — in addition to the rest of the program — can likewise inspire those watching to persevere through difficult times. In opening ourselves up to the experiences of others, and in sharing their vulnerabilities, their joys and pains, we open ourselves up to the possibility of a more just and equitable future.”

“We chose this year’s pieces based on conversations we’re already having with our BCC students,” added Trecek-King. “What are they thinking about? What issues can we highlight through our music that have both historical significance and relevance for audiences in 2017?”

Time: 7 p.m.

Date: Monday Jan. 16, 2017

Location: Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory, 30 Gainsborough Street, Boston

Since the first MLK memorial breakfast in 1970, the number of commemorative events in the area has increased to reflect diverse approaches to honoring the civil rights icon’s legacy.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum opens its doors for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Free Day Celebration

To celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will open its doors for a free day of community-building activities, art-making projects and performances around social justice and healing.

Throughout the day, the museum will come alive with movement and performances. Leslie Salmon Jones and Jeff Jones of Afro Flow Yoga will lead programs around music, movement and reflection, inspired by King. Marsha Parrilla, of Danza Organica, will present Running in Stillness, a dance theater suite based on the impact of mass incarceration on women and their families. Local artist and community activist Ifé Franklin will offer art-making activities in the museum’s Bertucci Education Studio.

Parrilla is one of several local artistic influencers who are taking part in a new museum initiative called the Neighborhood Salon, a quarterly gathering of Boston’s select cultural leaders, music and arts leaders and tastemakers whose work and/or agency impacts and inspires the creative, educational, social and political landscape of Roxbury, Mission Hill, Fenway and Greater Boston.

Modeled after Isabella Stewart Gardner’s legacy as a curator and hostess of artist salons around the turn of the century, the primary goal of the Neighborhood Salon is to exchange creative ideas and dialogue with Boston’s most innovative and thoughtful luminaries as a means of informing Community Engagement programming at the Gardner.

Free admission will be available at the museum entrance on Monday, January 18 starting at 11 a.m., on a first-come, first-served basis. To ensure everyone’s experience at the museum is pleasant, entry is timed every 30 minutes beginning at 11 a.m., with the last entry at 4 p.m. Admission includes access to the entire museum, including special exhibitions.

Time: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Date: Monday Jan. 16, 2017

Location: Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, 25 Evans Way, Boston

Price: Free

Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Concert

Join Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, the Museum of African American History, and Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra for the city’s annual tribute to King. Distinguished leaders will evoke the power and the promise of the civil rights hero’s words, and commemorate historical milestones. Conductor Marta Zarud will lead student musicians from BYSO’s Intensive Community Program in a moving array of classical music, spirituals and freedom songs. The day’s festivities culminate with the traditional audience sing-a-long.

Time: 1 p.m.

Date: Monday Jan. 16, 2017

Location: Fanueil Hall, 4 South Market Building, 5th Floor, Boston

Price: Free

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service 2017

For MLK Day 2017, Boston Cares has created opportunities for 750 volunteers to support Boston youth through STEM education tools and beds for kids in need. Six-hundred and fifty MLK Day volunteers will create “make your own robot kits,” engineering kits, science-themed murals, math games and math flash cards for Boston Public Schools, providing classrooms with exciting tools for learning. Additionally, 100 volunteers will join us in launching our new twin bed design, for children who do not have a bed of their own.

Volunteers will select a STEM tool activity station based on age and interest, with an additional station for our youngest volunteers to decorate bookmarks. There is a project for all ages. Completed STEM tools will be distributed to Boston Public Schools, and beds will be distributed to agency partners serving low-income and homeless families in the community.

This is a flexible and family-friendly event. Children as young as 5 and their families are welcome to attend. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. Sign up at The location is T accessible by taking the Green Line E train to Longwood Medical Area.

Time: 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Date: Monday Jan. 16, 2017

Location: Boston Latin School, 78 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston

Roxbury Y 9th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Business and Community Breakfast

Politicians, business and community leaders will kick off the long weekend by honoring the work of the YMCA of Greater Boston’s Roxbury Y during the 9th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Business and Community Breakfast, Friday, Jan. 13. The event aims to raise $20,000 to support programs at the Roxbury Y while remembering King’s legacy and values.

The breakfast will consist of an awards ceremony honoring two outstanding community leaders. The “Keeper of the Dream Community Service Award” will be presented to Curtis “Bruno” Harris, a fundraiser and volunteer water aerobics instructor at the Roxbury Y, for his tireless commitment to the seniors and young people of the Roxbury YMCA. The “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Corporate Leadership Award” will be presented to The Boston Red Sox and the Boston Area Church League for their partnership and resource for the young people and families of the Roxbury YMCA. James Morton, YMCA of Greater Boston CEO and president, will kick off the weekend with a speech at the breakfast.

On the Martin Luther King Day holiday, teens from the Roxbury Y Teen Program will be using their day off to lead a Day of Service doing community service projects to strengthen the Warren Avenue and MLK Jr. Blvd footprint of the Roxbury community. Morton will join the teens and local organizations for the volunteer work.

For more information call 617 427-5300.

Breakfast and speech

Time: 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Date: Friday Jan. 13, 2017

Location: Roxbury Y, 2 85 Martin Luther King Blvd., Roxbury

Day of Service

Time: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Date: Monday Jan. 16, 2017

Cambridge Peace Commission 2017 Martin Luther King Day Commemoration

Join the City of Cambridge to celebrate and remember the life and work of King. Community members will gather to hear readings from King’s words calling for peace, justice and transformation, music by Véronique Epiter and Christina DeVaughn, and remarks by Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts’ 5th Congressional District. Congresswoman Clark has been a vocal advocate for ending wage discrimination; protecting health care; providing access to affordable, high-quality child care and paid family leave; creating safer schools and enacting other reforms to address the challenges women and families face.

The event will include a celebration of King’s life and work for peace, justice and transformation and an informal lunch and community gathering. It is open to all and wheelchair-accessible. The Many Helping Hands MLK Day of Service will take place immediately following it.

Celebration of King’s life and work

Time: 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Lunch and Gathering

Time: 12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.

Date: Monday Jan. 16, 2017

Location: the undercroft (basement) of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 838 Mass Ave, Cambridge

Price: Free