‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ project extended until June, after requests
In an effort to keep the spirit of community, civil rights and the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. alive, Art Sanctuary has launched “Read with Me: The MLK Project,” a six-month program to continue these initiatives beyond Jan. 21, this year’s Martin Luther King Day. The project was launched with a video featuring various Philadelphians reading excerpts from King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” written in 1963. The staff at Art Sanctuary reflected that this letter has been often labeled as the most important document of the Civil Rights era.
“This is something we can do, we launched the idea during the ‘Passing the Baton’ event,” said Valerie Gay, executive director at Art Sanctuary. “We gave them a ‘call to action’ to do something and the end date was MLK Day. Afterward we received so much feedback from people saying, ‘Oh my goodness, what’s next – we really want to do something after MLK.’”.
Gay and the Art Sanctuary staff were inspired to continue these efforts and are enthused to implement this project through the next six months. The community is welcomed to get involved by visiting artsanctuary.org and downloading King’s letter. Adults can partner with from one to three youths under age 18 to read the letter in groups of two or three. Art Sanctuary will provide questions and themes that will guide the discussion from the reading.
As a part of the project, Art Sanctuary encourages participants to create a letter, song, poem or another art form based on the discussion and reading of the letter. Participants are also encouraged to upload a video, take a photo or write a blog highlighting their creation and sharing it with Art Sanctuary.
“To be able to connect it to art to me is so powerful and empowering. We encourage everyone to read the letter,” Gay said. “Anyone who’s reading it doesn’t have to do it alone—we will generate thought that hopefully will have people thinking beyond what they initially thought.”
Art Sanctuary will continue this effort until June 20. This is significant because June marks 50 years of the publishing of “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Gay said she hopes the momentum of King’s words and his meaningful letter will continue to resonate throughout the community and inspire those affiliated to constantly recognize “heroes” surrounding them. She believes acknowledging the good work in the community, should be a daily practice.
“Yes there is a need to recognize these heroes,” Gay said. “There are people all round them with world of experiences that they didn’t even know or pay attention to.”