Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be celebrated virtually and in different ways this year.

The Mon Valley NAACP's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration will be held virtually this year.

The celebration, which is sponsored by the Mon Valley NAACP, has been held at various local churches since 1986.

However, due to COVID-19, organizers of the celebration have chosen to make the program virtual.

“Our unified belief was that we may not be able to have large crowds attending in a building, but we wanted to keep his spirit alive and celebrate his memory in whatever way way we as a community could do,” said Mary Youngblood, a member of the Mon Valley NAACP MLK Celebration Committee. “MLK had a message about not giving up but to keep moving forward and that is what motivated us to not be dormant, but to move forward and celebrate virtually.”

Youngblood said the program will recognize King and his contributions, while using music to celebrate his legacy.

Specifically, the program will feature guests soloists Ryan McCNeil and the Rev. Linda King, a biographical presentation by Elder Jack Howell and excerpts from the “I Have a Dream” speech read by four local youths.

Other young people in the area will also be presenting dialogue based on the theme “Moving from King's Dream to our Realities”

The event will take place Monday, Jan. 18 at 4 p.m.

Everyone is invited to join the celebration by going to Zoom and using meeting identification number 820-6250-7040 and accessing the pass code 113955.

Mobile devices can dial into 1-301-715-8892 or 1-929-205-6099, using the same meeting identification number as the Zoom.

For more information and to register children and youth for the celebration, call the NAACP office at 724-684-8545 and leave a name and phone number.

Parental permission and access to a Zoom account will be needed to take part.

In Uniontown, the East End United Community Center will hold their first virtual community dialogue on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Keeley Forrestel, the executive director of the center, said the center plans to have ongoing community dialogues with the intention of sparking community transformation to replace long-standing distrust, avoidance and unhealthy coping techniques when it comes to addressing difficult social and political topics.

“The intention of these dialogues, addressing issues such as racial equity, community violence, abuse and neglect, police brutality, mental health stigma, drug addiction, incarceration, privilege, power, systemic change and a host of other social justice issues, is to serve as a much needed opportunity for community healing,” Forrestel said.

The community dialogue will be the first in a series the center plans to hold once a month.

“This is an advocacy effort to begin to help the community to process and heal from the plethora of challenges they have been facing as the social and political landscape has become more and more hostile,” Forrestel said.

The community dialogue will take place via zoom at 11 am on Monday, Jan. 18th.

Registration via Eventbrite is required.

Forrestel said the event is free to attend and donations to support an ongoing community dialogue initiative is welcome.

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