Pittsburgh-area events mark Martin Luther King Day 2013

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For many community groups, this weekend is a time to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. with community service, guest lectures and musical performances.

But for the Pittsburgh chapter of Black Voices for Peace, it's an opportunity to live King's vision of nonviolent protest and discussion as a mechanism of social change.

The group will hold a peaceful protest at 1 p.m. Saturday at the intersection of Penn and Highland avenues in East Liberty followed by a public forum titled "The Cost of the War and the African-American Community," at which panelists will discuss the local consequences of war.

"We think it's foolish to spend nearly $1.5 trillion [on war] and at the same time people are not getting the normal goods and services [they] rely on," said Gail Austin, a leader of Black Voices for Peace. Ms. Austin cited cuts in funding for education and public transportation as consequences of misallocating America's moral, economic and spiritual resources.

The group formed in 2003 when a loose association of anti-Iraq War protesters came together. Over the past 10 years, Black Voices for Peace protested the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan every Saturday, according to Ms. Austin. The group continues to take up new issues, acting as a vocal opponent of drone strikes abroad.

"The drone strikes kill lots of civilians and no one seems to notice," Ms. Austin said. "It's really important that anti-war groups keep attention on the war and the effect it has on our daily lives."

Here are some other events planned in the region this weekend leading up to the King holiday on Monday:

Saturday

• The East Liberty Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will host a forum on the local cost of war. Speakers will address the consequences of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the local black community. It begins at 3 p.m. at 130 S. Whitfield St. and will be followed by audience discussion.

• The Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church will present the first of the two-concert "Let Freedom Sing!" series with the Pittsburgh Gospel Choir, spoken-word artist Vanessa German and a variety of community singing groups. The concert begins at 7 p.m. at 6556 Shetland Ave, Larimer.

Sunday

• East Liberty Presbyterian Church will host the 29th Annual Martin Luther King Celebration and Kelso Lecture, which will include a keynote address by civil rights attorney John C. Brittain and musical performances starting at 3:30 p.m. The church is at 116 S. Highland Ave.

Monday

• Waynesburg University will honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a convocation address presented by Superior Court Judge Cheryl Lynn Allen at 11 a.m. in Roberts Chapel.

• The Kelly Strayhorn Theater will present "East Liberty Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." The program will include music, dance, theatrical performances and family friendly activities from noon to 4 p.m. at 5941 Penn Ave.

• Venture Outdoors will host "Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Park" with free outdoor activities including ice skating, music, snowshoeing and art projects from 1-4 p.m. at Schenley Park in Oakland. The skating rink also will be open for its 4-6:30 p.m. session. Pre-registration strongly recommended: www.ventureoutdoors.org/mlkday.aspx.

• The Union Project will host a community meal and discussion about what King's dream means. The event runs from 4 to 7 p.m. at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, 250 N. Highland Ave., East Liberty.

• Carnegie Mellon University will host World Economic Forum Young Global Leader Binta Niambi, who will give a keynote address at 5 p.m. on the second floor of CMU's University Center, 5032 Forbes Ave., Oakland.

• Geneva College in Beaver Falls will host "A Night of the Arts in Honor of Martin Luther King: The Man. The Vision. The Dream," featuring a performance by Rutha Harris, a lifelong civil rights activist as well as Pittsburgh's Center of Life Jazz Band. The event starts at 7 p.m. in Sky Lounge, Geneva College Student Center.

• Franklin Regional High School will host the second part of the "Let Freedom Sing!" concert series, which will feature a variety of choirs and choral groups. The concert begins at 7 p.m. at 3200 School Road, Murrysville.

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Alex Zimmerman: azimmerman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3909.


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