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How to Honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Westchester

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Here are top ways you and your family can remember the legacy of Dr. King in Westchester while staying safe and socially distant.

It can be hard finding family activities that honor the memory and the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., even in years when we didn’t have to socially distance. Yet in a time when those teachings are so needed, we wanted to make sure you can find ways to do just that. Here are our top picks for virtual, at-home, and safe in-person plans you can make this year.

To Read

This MLK Day, consider introducing your little ones to Doctor King with a copy of I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Metzer. The bestselling novelist and comic writer teamed up with illustrator Christopher Eliopoulos for a series of biographical picture books ideal for a first meeting with historical figures such as King. Cute and accessible, the pages are also filled with detailed information.

Older kids may also enjoy Who Was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? from the classic middle-grades biography and history series, or the graphic novel trilogy March by the late MLK contemporary and former U.S. representative John Lewis.

To Watch

All things considered, it’s a lot easier to get multiple children to settle down on the couch for a movie than it is for joint reading time. While many of our MLK Day movie recommendations would be a bit mature for the whole family, we highly recommend 1999’s direct-to-video time travel classic Our Friend, Martin:

The story follows two sixth-graders with very little respect or understanding for the civil rights movement who end up traveling through time to meet Martin Luther King, Jr. at various periods in the leader’s life. The all-star cast features appearances by Dexter and Yolanda King (portraying their father and aunt, respectively), as well as LeVar Burton, Jaleel White, Ed Asner, Angela Bassett, Danny Glover, Whoopie Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones, Ashley Judd, Susan Sarandon, John Travolta, and Oprah Winfrey.

At just over an hour, it’s an easy and excellent introduction into some of the more important events and goals of King’s life without feeling as emotionally heavy as films like Selma, and it’s readily available to stream online.

For the older crowd, King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis is also available to stream online for free, via Kanopy, with any active Westchester library card.

If you’re comfortable going in person (vaxxed-only and at 50-percent capacity), The Jacob Burns Film Center will also host a free screening of Henry Hampton’s seminal 1987 Civil Rights Movement documentary Eyes on the Prize at 5 p.m.

To Do

African American Men of Westchester will also be holding its annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Youth Awards Luncheon at noon, in a virtual celebration. The awards ceremony honors King’s messages and legacy of hope and unity by recognizing four young Westchester students who represent these ideals through acts of service and leadership within their communities, and rewarding them with $2,500 academic scholarships. This year’s ceremony will include remarks by local political, economic, and cultural leaders. Registration is free, though donations are accepted.

If you’re looking to give back to the community yourself, Volunteer New York! has once again organized an MLK Day of Service, with multiple volunteer opportunities between now and January 20. This year’s events include sorting donated medical supplies in Yonkers to be shipped to the Caribbean, collecting and shopping for winter clothing in New Rochelle, and multiple virtual events for those who can’t make it in person.

Feeding Westchester will likewise host its MLK Day campaign “It Starts With Me” from January 17 through the end of the month, encouraging locals to donate cereal to the organization’s Winter Food Drive, start a fundraiser, or make winter “Help From Home” bags. Sign up or make a donations online.

The Fuller Center in New Rochelle will be running its annual Martin Luther King Build-A-Thon from January 15 to 23, helping to create homes for veterans and those in need. To volunteer, text 914.406.3357.

Starting at 3 p.m., the Alliance for Safe Kids will host its 1st Annual Yorktown Keeping the Dream celebration at the Jefferson Valley Mall and virtually on Facebook and Instagram. The event will include community art, creative writing, a showcase of one-of-a-kind “kindness” t-shirts, local organizations and resources, and, as always, tons of community engagement. Stick around for the Town of Yorktown’s annual MLK Day televised ceremony at 6 p.m.

The Nepperhan Community Center of Yonkers will host its 36th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration virtually at 6 p.m. This year’s honorees include LaKisha Collins-Bellamy, the very first African American president of the Yonkers City Council, as well as Pearlie M. Bostic, Betty Smith, and Maxine Brown. Tickets are $35.

MLK Day is also a free entrance holiday at all national parks. While we might be a ways away from the likes of Yosemite, “national parks” technically includes more local spots like the Old Croton Aqueduct, Sleepy Hollow’s Old Dutch Church, Lyndhurst, Kykuit/the John D. Rockefeller Estate, Philipse Manor Hall, Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, the Elephant Hotel of Somers, and plenty more. Some are still observing limited visitation hours/capacity due to COVID-19, so make sure to check with the indoor venues before planning a family outing.

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