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In the Moment: Dr. King Commemorations in Reston and McLean

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In Northern Virginia, two community centers have had long-standing and continuing activities commemorating the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday.  They are the McLean Community Center and the Reston Community Center, who will have commemorative events. The Dr. King Holiday was signed into law in 1983. This year the Holiday is officially January 18, 2016.

There were also be other local activities for the Dr. King commemoration in the two communities and for what is now a National Day of Service.

It was made clear to me by Community Center leadership including Executive Director Leila Gordon of the Reston Community Center, and Executive Director George Sachs of the McLean Community Center, that it is essential to engage in such activities.

Executive Director George Sachs of the McLean Community Center. Photo courtesy of The McLean Community Center.

Executive Director George Sachs of the McLean Community Center. Photo courtesy of The McLean Community Center.

“Each year the state of our union and the conditions of the world suggest how important and how tenuous are the lessons Dr. King’s life teaches us. If we don’t recommit to values that inspired him and our community’s founding, we risk waking up too late to their disappearance. That’s the motivation that drives our celebrations.” said Leila Gordon.

“We continue to provide a yearly MLK Day Celebration for the residents of McLean because the principles Dr. King espoused are key to creating harmonious and healthy communities. Every person who values promoting peace and equality in our nation, regardless of his or her race, can be inspired and encouraged by taking the time to celebrate the life of this great American.” said George Sachs.

Please note, while the 2016 Presidential Proclamation is not yet available as this article goes to press, link to the 2015 Presidential Proclamation is here.

David Siegel: Why did you select the speakers you have for the 2016 events: Anne Deavere Smith at Reston and Peggy Wallace Kennedy at McLean Community Center?

Anna Deavere Smith. Photo Courtesy of Reston Community Center.

Anna Deavere Smith. Photo Courtesy of Reston Community Center.

Paul Douglas Michnewicz, Arts and Events Director: Anna Deavere Smith returns to the CenterStage with her performance of From Rodney King to Michael Brown and her Keynote Address.

Paul Douglas Michnewicz, Arts and Events Director.

Paul Douglas Michnewicz, Arts and Events Director. Photo courtesy of Reston Community Center.

Her appearance in last year in Reston was so inspiring that she sparked a series of “Community Conversations on Equity,” which include the “We Make Reston” public art exhibition, the facilitated community dialogues with Dr. Lisa Sechrest-Ehrhardt and the upcoming week-long residency of john a. powell in February.

Ms. Smith uses a performance model that includes and incorporates community dialog following her work which was welcomed by the community. Both she and the people who attended last year wanted this return engagement with passion.

Sarah N. Schallern.

Sarah N. Schallern. Photo courtesy of Reston Community Center.

Sarah Schallerin, Director of Performing Arts at The Alden: We came upon Peggy Wallace Kennedy after our planned speaker, Julian Bond, passed away. MCC staff were all fascinated by her story. It was amazing and moving that the daughter of infamous segregationist George Wallace would have become a civil rights activist. We think Kennedy’s story will resonate with McLean residents and inspire them to work toward Dr. King’s dream.

Peggy Wallace Kennedy.

Peggy Wallace Kennedy. Photo courtesy of McLean Community Center

Expect the unexpected! Hearing a person whose own father once said “Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. Segregation forever” speak about her own civil rights journey is probably not what most people think about when they think of MLK Day. But we think it will be powerful and have a strong impact on the audience

What can audiences expect at the 2016 Dr. King commemoration event?

Paul Douglas Michnewicz, Arts and Events Director: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everybody can be great… because everybody can serve.” At Reston Community Center we take that quite literally with a series of community service projects which benefit Southgate Community Center, Reston Association, Cornerstones and The Closet. We are called remember Dr. King as well as advance his agenda in the work that we do and the fellowship that we create with these projects. This weekend of events resonates deeply with our community’s founding values and helps us remain true to the vision of Reston as a welcoming, inclusive and healthy place for people of every background and circumstance.

Sarah: Commemorating Dr. King’s life isn’t a history lesson or a way to congratulate ourselves on how far we’ve come. His dreams and goals have not yet been attained, not just in terms of racial relations, but also in terms of other issues, such as income inequality and access to education. These are just two of the issues we should still be working on in the name of Martin Luther King Jr.

Why should people come to events commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr?

Paul Douglas Michnewicz, Arts and Events Director: Our celebration includes something for everybody including volunteer opportunities, the free Reston Community Orchestra concert, the free Voices of Inspiration concert, an art exhibit by children, the Especially for Youth activities for the very youngest participants and the Anna Deavere Smith performance/dialog. The culmination of the weekend on Monday incorporates a Keynote Address by Anna Deveare Smith which is followed by a delicious, home-style community lunch. People experience the weekend as a reinvigorating and restorative awakening to the impulse to serve others.

Sarah: Commemorating Dr. King’s life isn’t a history lesson or a way to congratulate ourselves on how far we’ve come. His dreams and goals have not yet been attained, not just in terms of racial relations, but also in terms of other issues, such as income inequality and access to education. These are just two of the issues we should still be working on in the name of Martin Luther King Jr.

Leila Gordon. Photo Courtesy of McLean Community Center.

Leila Gordon. Courtesy of Jennifer Heffner Photography.

How does celebrating the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, give guidance to the future?

Paul Douglas Michnewicz, Arts and Events Director: In the words of john a. powell, “In a world that is unjust, hard, and rigid, not only is there a great deal of surplus suffering; there is also too little space for love.” By coming together through the arts and community building, we take steps toward building a more perfect union – one that Dr. King envisioned with opportunity and justice for all of us.

Sarah: Dr. King was a visionary, and visionaries speak not only to the time in which they are living, but also to the future. The indefinite future. Even if issues of racial equality were completely settled, we still have gender equality, income and education equality, immigration issues, marriage rights, and a whole range of other human rights challenges to tackle.

Information about 2016 national observances for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday officially celebrated on January 18, 2016, and the National Day of Service can be found at the Corporation of National and Community Service.

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One Response to In the Moment: Dr. King Commemorations in Reston and McLean

  1. Peggy M January 12, 2016 at 9:50 am #

    I have read some articles written by Peggy Wallace Kennedy. She is inspirational for sure. She is a living testament that racism, bigotry and hate are not necessarily inheritable traits. I can’t wait to hear her speak!