Events salute civil rights leader

MLK Day will provide virtual opportunities to commemorate King's legacy

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which marks the birthday of the man whose name is synonymous with the fight against systemic racism and championing for equal rights for all citizens.

Although the usual in-person MLK Day events are not being held, several local and regional programs are offered virtually to help residents observe the occasion.

Musical inspiration

Hinsdale-based Acoustic Renaissance Concerts will present a virtual performance from the vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock from the historic Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C., at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17. Sweet Honey in the Rock has been performing for 40 years with a mission to promote empowerment, education and entertainment. Viewers can choose which of the two shows to watch. Tickets are $15 live and $20 for the ability to watch anytime for up to a week. There is also a special $50 package that includes both shows and an interactive conversation with the members of the group. For tickets or more information, visit

Artistic tribute

The African American Arts Alliance of Chicago and Black Ensemble Theater present the 10th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18. The production will honor and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by featuring dance, music, spoken word and excerpts from some of Dr. King's most potent speeches, with performances by Black Ensemble Theater Artists André Teamer, Dawn Bless, Dwight Neal and a host of others. The event is free can be livestreamed at or

Northwestern programs

• The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity chapter at Northwestern University will hold its annul Candlelight Vigil, entitled "Activism During a Pandemic and the Healing of Incarcerated Peoples," at 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18.

An address will be given by Hill Harper, actor, author, activist, philanthropist and fraternity brother. The award-winning TV and film actor also has authored four New York Times bestselling books, including "Letters to an Incarcerated Brother" and is the founder of Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering underserved youth through mentorship, scholarship and grant programs. The event will also include a video performance of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" performed by the Northwestern Community Ensemble and alumni.

• A Northwestern panel comprised of the school's law and Feinberg School of Medicine faculty and alumni will discuss systemic racism in law and medicine from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Both events can be livestreamed through links posted on Northwestern's MLK website at

King Day at Art Institute

The Art Institute of Chicago is offering a collection of virtual programs, both live and recorded, to honor the legacy of Dr. King's powerful voice and highlight the role that art and artists play in social and political transformation.

• Join Rebirth Poetry Ensemble and the performance duo In the Spirit, featuring Zahra Baker and Emily Hooper Lansana, from 5 to 6:15 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18. Youth poets from the ensemble have been performing at the museum's annual King Day festival for several years, and this year they've created spoken-word pieces in response to the museum's exhibition "Bisa Butler: Portraits." In the Spirit is returning to perform for King Day, bringing to life Butler's quilts and celebrating the legacy of Dr. King through original stories woven together with rhythm and song.

• The participatory experience Virtual Talk: (In)Justice from 2 to 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, is inspired by the museum's collection and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail." It will explore the many meanings of justice, resistance, and faith.

Both events will be hosted on Zoom. Visit

Also available on the website are these King Day-related videos:

• Interdisciplinary artist Avery Young and filmmaker Amir George collaborated on a new video, "The Two Visits," that remembers the 1968 Chicago riots on the city's west side following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The video combines footage of the West Garfield Park and North Lawndale neighborhoods, with Young's powerful spoken word and funk- and blues-infused music.

• Responding to the "Bisa Butler: Portraits" exhibition, artist Kiki Lechuga-Dupont has created "Some Dawn," an animated visualization of intersecting themes within the work of Butler and musical artists Growing Concerns Poetry Collective. The work's bright, meditative design aspires to reflect a sense of spirit, pride and community.

• Families with children 5 and younger are invited to tune into a new "Picture This" video program that pairs the recently acquired quilt "The Safety Patrol" by Bisa Butler with a children's picture book. Senior educator Melissa Tanner guides families on an exploration of ideas of safety, connection and how bodies are used to express feelings and values.

• Explore the quilted portraits of Bisa Butler for inspiration and then make a colorful portrait that honors family members using materials that are easy to find around the home. The vibrant, intricately layered textiles featured in the "Bisa Butler: Portraits" exhibition captures personal and historical narratives of Black life. Often based on historic photographs of well-known and unidentified Black men, women and children, Butler's quilts explore themes of family, community, migration, youth and artistic legacies. Curator Erica Warren will share more about the portrait subjects.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean