A series of events with Williams College and a weekend of service in North Adams and will help Northern Berkshire celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. this year.
On Sunday and Monday, Jan. 14, Williams College will host programming in recognition of the civil rights activist. Assistant Director of the Davis Center, Taj Smith, explained the decision was made to hold the series a week before Martin Luther King Day in part because the occasion falls on the same day as the presidential inauguration, Monday, Jan. 21.
"We also wanted people to be able to participate in the weekend of service," he said.
Williams' events kicks off with a showing of "Brave New Voices" at MASS MoCA in North Adams, from 2 to 3 p.m., on Sunday. The HBO film documents young people participating in the 2010 National Poetry Slam team championships in Los Angeles. Students from the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's UNITY Teen Writing Workshop will read their work prior to the showing.
Other events include workshops, Williamstown Elementary students reading their own essays, a showing of the film "Broken on All Sides" at Images Cinema and a presentation on King's 1961 visit to Williams College.
While one goal is to inform Williams students and educate them on ways to make change, Smith said, equally important is engaging the community.
"It's an opportunity to reach out to the community to provide resources that are free, where they can get access to the same amount of knowledge students can get," he said.
Closer to the holiday, the Martin Luther King Committee of Northern Berkshire is organizing two days of volunteer work for the Weekend of Service, "A Day On, Not a Day Off."
Kathy Keeser of the MLK Committee said the idea evolved from a day of remembrance and conversation to a day of service several years ago. Now, residents can work together and make change in the community on the holiday, something Luther would get behind.
"That's something he always called for," she said. "People working together. They can be part of the dream, they can be part of the picture. "
Projects include assembling care packages for North Berkshire soldiers being deployed to Afghanistan; winterizing houses in North Adams and Adams; and performing various tasks at locations like the First Baptist Church of North Adams, the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink, Brayton Hill apartments and the Louison House.
While the main Day of Service is Monday, Jan. 21, Keeser said, projects will be also be performed on the preceding Saturday, Jan. 19.
"We wanted to give an alternate day for people who have to work on Monday," she said.
Alexander Daugherty, chair of the committee, said the event is made possible by a grant from the Massachusetts Service Alliance. Anything the projects require, such as paint, thermostats and weatherproofing materials, is paid for by the grant, he said.
Daugherty added that anyone interested in volunteering will still be able to watch the presidential inauguration -- MCLA will provide a live stream of the inauguration to watch at the Church Street Center.
Daugherty said guests will include MCLA President Mary Grant, North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, and state Sen. Ben Downing, D-North Adams.
Daugherty, who has served on the committee for 18 years, said the spirit of the volunteers always impresses him.
"We have a very special place here," he said. "People come out in large numbers to help with what we're doing."
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