Students will have an opportunity to remember and celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, along with members of the Ithaca community, with festivities at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) starting at 11:30 a.m.
“This year’s national theme for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is ‘A Day On, Not a Day Off,’ and I think that really captures the opportunity we hope to provide for our community,” wrote Alison Christie of GreenStar Cooperative Market in an e-mail.
“We desire to bring together the diversity of our own community to celebrate and honor Dr. King and to bring alive the words and ideas of Dr. King to effect change locally,” she said.
GreenStar is one of several sponsors of the event. Others include the Cornell Public Service Center (CPSC), the Center for Religion, Ethics and Social Policy (CRESP) at Cornell, Cornell University Campus Life, GIAC and the Multicultural Resource Center. The events are also co-sponsored by the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca.
The activities planned for today are all free. Starting at 11:30 a.m., there will be a complimentary lunch and a keynote address at GIAC by Prof. Larry Shinagawa, director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity at Ithaca College. There will also be music by the Common Chords chorus, the DeWitt Middle School choir and the Dryden Elementary School choir.
“[Shinagawa’s] talk will be focused on civil rights and where we are now in relation to the Homeland [Security] Act,” said Renee Farkas, assistant director of CPSC.
In addition, there will be afternoon workshops.
“Afternoon workshops include a combined youth and elder speak-out, an Alternatives to Violence workshop and children’s art workshops by GIAC and the Johnson Art Museum, plus storytelling by Jacqueline Melton Scott and music by Tom Sieling,” Christie said.
“After the workshops, we join together for dessert, closing remarks and more music from the Ithaca Children’s Choir, ending at 4:30 p.m.,” she added.
“For the youth and elder speak-out, there are a few elders from the community and teenagers from the community who sit in the room and talk about their experiences in the community,” said Anke Wessels at CRESP.
“People really find it very moving to hear people in the community speaking about what is vital to the community, the experiences of the elders and the way the youth perceive their community,” she added.
This celebration has occurred for nine years, according to Wessels. One of the important aspects of this program is to emphasize interaction between the town and the University.
“Typically Cornell does not mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or at least not on the day of the event, and this was a way to do that. Our goal is to bring both University members and members of the local community together to mark this day and commemorate the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King,” Farkas said. “It’s important to celebrate and recognize the day — our poster reads the following, which I would say sums it up: ‘Remember! Celebrate! Act! A day on