MANCHESTER, NH – “Where We Stand,” a phrase adapted from a 1963 essay by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is the theme of the 36th annual Martin Luther King Day Community Celebration, which will take place on January 15 at Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 650 Hanover St., in the Hellenic Community Center.
The Celebration is sponsored by the Martin Luther King Coalition, which unites diverse local organizations dedicated to carrying on Dr. King’s work to end racism, eliminate poverty, and promote peace through active nonviolence.
Russell and Jacquelyne “Jackie” Weatherspoon of Exeter, who have served as co-emcees of the Celebration for many years, will receive the 2018 Martin Luther King Award in recognition of their dedication to civil and human rights. The 2018 Vanessa Johnson Award will be presented to Gabrielle Greaves, a student at UNH in Durham.
Prizes will also go to the winners of the Martin Luther King Writing Contest, Grace St. Pierre, a 7th grader from Vilas Middle School in Alstead, and Taylor Porter, a 6th grader from the same school. Their contributions are based on words of Dr. King’s, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, who serves as the Minister for Ecological Justice at Bethel AME Church in Boston, will be the guest speaker.
The Rev. Eric Jackson, who serves as pastor at Brookside Congregational Church and as president of the Greater Manchester NAACP, will be the emcee.
The program, which will be interpreted for the deaf by students from UNH-Manchester, will also feature soloist Julia Leonard, accompanied by Jared Holland.
The Celebration begins with a light meal catered by local businesses at 2 p.m., followed by the program beginning at 3 p.m.
About the Speakers and Awardees
Jacquelyne “Jackie” Weatherspoon served three terms in the NH House of Representatives, where in 1999 she was a sponsor of the bill that finally created a state holiday named for Dr. King. Jackie has worked globally on democracy promotion and is currently a member of the New Hampshire Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She is known for her commitment to getting young people involved in politics.
Russell Weatherspoon has served since 1987 as an instructor of religion at Phillips Exeter Academy, where he has taught English and drama, as well. Russell has also served as a dean of residential life and multi-cultural affairs, coached sports, and advised student journalists. He is known for his ability to lead freedom songs and teach youth about the enduring significance of the African American freedom struggle, and also for his love of jazz.
Gabrielle “Gabby” Greaves, who will receive the Vanessa Johnson Award, is a student at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) whose activism has influenced institutional, community, and individual change in response to racist incidents on the Durham campus. The award is given to recognize and encourage emerging leaders in movements for social justice.
In addition to her pastoral work, the Rev. White-Hammond serves as a fellow with the Green Justice Coalition, a partnership of environmental justice groups. From 2001-2014 she was the Executive Director of Project HIP-HOP, where she used the arts to help young people to find their voice and create artistic pieces on issues ranging from juvenile incarceration to funding for public transportation. In April 2016, she was ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and in May 2017 she graduated from Boston University School of Theology with a Masters of Divinity.
The Martin Luther King Day Community Celebration is open to all. Donations will be accepted at the door to defray expenses. More information is at www.mlknh.org.