Events Probe King’s Meaning

by Denise Clay

The City of Philadelphia is home to one of the largest Day of Service projects dedicated to the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But when you’re done painting, building playgrounds, registering people to vote, feeding families in need or reading to children, there are other activities designed to give you more insight into the iconic civil-rights leader.

One of the city’s premiere events is the annual Drum Major luncheon held by the Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Association. Founded by the late C. DeLores Tucker, Philadelphia’s King Association is the only entity outside of Atlanta approved by King’s widow, the late Coretta Scott King, said Joye Nottage, the association’s executive director.

Drum Major Award winners are chosen from a combination of the nominations of community groups and individuals with which the association has interacted during the volunteer work it oversees. This year’s honorees are the Philadelphia Foundation and Dr. Arthur C. Evans, commissioner for the Dept. of Behavioral Health & Intellectual Disability Services.

The two entities were chosen because they embodied King’s ethos of providing service to others that makes an impact, Nottage said.

“The [Philadelphia] Foundation has been very supportive not just of our programs, but of the programs of a lot of organizations,” Nottage said. “Were it not for their help, a lot of organizations wouldn’t be able to do the work that they do. Dr. Evans has also made an impact on the lives of others and has been humble about it in the same way that Dr. King was. We felt that it was time to honor him.”

In addition to the award presentations, there will be a presentation from one of the students who was a member of the King Association’s youth programs, Nottage said.

But if you’re not in the mood for something as formal as a luncheon, the African American Museum in Philadelphia has a variety of programs that you and your family can participate in for a nominal fee.

With a theme of “Where Do We GO from Here: Chaos or Community?” and sponsored by Citizens Bank, AAMP has a variety of activities that look at the challenges we face as a community through the eyes of King and how we can meet these challenges, said James Claiborne, public programming manager for AAMP.

The theme is the title of a speech King did in which he asked his audience if they wanted to solve the problems the country was facing as a communal unit or if they’d be willing to allow chaos to ensue.

Because the country seems to be in a similar position now, this is the perfect time to look at this particular speech, Claiborne said.

“We tend to think about that in terms of connecting him with current narratives,” he said. “This shows audiences of all ages the things he dedicated his life to, how much work still has to be done, and how to tackle that work in a way that allows us to become a community. We ask ‘Where do we go from here?”

The discussion begins on Friday night at 6 p.m. with a screening of The 13th, a documentary from Selma director Ava DuVernay that looks at the growth of the nation’s prison population through the Emancipation Proclamation, or the 13th Amendment of the Constitution, and a clause that freed all slaves, except for the ones in prison. The documentary, which is also available on Netflix, will be followed by a panel discussion.

On Saturday, “Where Do We GO from Here?” is manifested through an interactive exhibit, which continues through Monday.

There will also be musical and theatrical performances, face-painting and a scavenger hunt for the children, and a panel discussion featuring the August Wilson Consortium with Rhone Fraser, Ph.D. and film director Ozzie Jones.

The African American Museum in Philadelphia will be open from Saturday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is $2. Tickets for the Philadelphia Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence’s 35th Annual Awards & Benefit Luncheon begin at $85 (general admission) and can be purchased by calling the association at (215) 751-9300 or on the association’s website at