Tuesday, July 16, 2024

The Moses Youth Center, a stop on a walk through The Port planned for Monday, shows a Black Lives Matter tag in October 2020, reflecting two generation of black leadership since the days of Martin Luther King Jr. (Photo: Marc Levy)

A community walk through The Port neighborhood to learn about Cambridge’s black and brown history is the sole in-person event planned for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the second to be celebrated during the pandemic. But there is more going on through Thursday, and all the events are free.

“Although the Covid pandemic continues to limit our ability to offer public gatherings, we can all still come together and serve and commemorate on MLK Day,” said organizers of the 2022 Cambridge MLK Day of Service & Learning from Many Helping Hands 365, My Brothers Keeper Cambridge and YWCA Cambridge.

The 1.5-mile, hourlong walk – designed to look at the city through King’s eyes – begins (at 1 p.m.) and ends at Starlight Square, 84 Bishop Allen Drive, Central Square.

“We’re organizing a walk through Central Square and The Port that celebrates our city’s Black history and pays direct homage to Dr. King’s legacy,” said Niko Emack, one of the walk’s coordinators, through the Cambridge Community Foundation. “But more importantly, it’s an opportunity for residents to step out of their comfort zone, ask tough questions and collectively reflect on all the ways King’s dream has yet to be fully realized in Cambridge.”

Paula Paris, of the Cambridge Black History Project, noted that the walk would pay tribute to the role played by local churches in the civil rights movement. The St. Paul AME Church is planned as a stop, along with public art and places such as the Moses Youth Center – named in honor of Bob Moses and his family’s fight against educational inequities.

During the walk, “We will reflect on what we can each do individually and as a community to help create an equitable community that brings us closer to racial justice and equality,” organizers added.

The event has a noon to 3 p.m. entertainment license that includes dance and music for an expected 300 people – and surprisingly drew a letter of opposition that cited the noise and disruption that might be caused by the event. The letter was discussed Tuesday by the License Commission.

“I recognize the possible disruption a new venture like Starlight may be causing residents of the area. However, the hours sought here and the event being proposed do not seem to be a detriment to the community or public need – and in fact, is something that I think serves the public need and the common good,” chair Nicole Murati Ferrer said. 

Her fellow commissioners agreed, and the license was approved unanimously.

More Week of Service events

Monday also includes Virtual Valentine Making and Virtual Scarf and Blanket Making events from 10 a.m. to noon; materials can be picked up before the Zooms begin. People are also urged to take part in collecting food for pantries in Cambridge, Somerville and Chelsea; clothing for local nonprofits that will go to neighbors in need; books; and diapers.

Free, virtual conversations on racial justice include:

  • “Reimagining Reparations” from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Saskia VannJames, a racial and health lobbyist and board member at the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council, will talk about King’s legacy on the intersection of classism and racial justice and suggest actions that everyone can participate in to show solidarity for reparations from slavery. 
  • Aspiration to Results” community breakfast from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. The talk picks up on the themes of Monday’s walk, focusing on why Cambridge has fallen short of King’s dream. “How can we make the city’s mission and vision factual, not just aspirational?” organizers ask.
  • The Unraveling of MLK’s Dream” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Tony Clark of My Brothers Keeper Cambridge and other community leaders and thinkers will talk about issues ranging from the Jan. 6 insurrection, the political stalemate over the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and redistricting to “critical race theory” and violence in our schools.

Other ways to celebrate

Martin Luther King Jr. socks on sale at Cambridge Clogs, 1798 Massachusetts Ave., between Porter and Harvard squares. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Getting food for the community breakfast – or any virtual event – is a good reason to check out the interactive map of black-owned restaurants and other businesses hosted by Cambridge Local First with the Cambridge-Somerville Black Business Network.

The Brattle Theatre has screenings of the documentary “MLK/FBI” at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Monday. In this film from 2021, director Sam Pollard shows how King “was often treated by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies like an enemy of the state … throughout the ’50s and ’60s, fueled by the racist and red-baiting paranoia of J. Edgar Hoover,” the Brattle says, citing IFC. Tickets are $12; proof of vaccination is required.

The Museum of African American History and Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras offers a soundtrack for the day: a video produced in 2021 called “A Testament of Hope” that features music and words celebrating King and other black leaders. The video, which lasts a little over 14 minutes, can be watched here.

What’s closed and open on MLK Day

City offices will close for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, and payments at parking meters and parking pay stations will not be required. There will be no curbside collection of trash and recycling, and collection will be one day behind schedule for the rest of the week. Gates at Cambridge Cemetery, 76 Coolidge Ave., West Cambridge, will be open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the cemetery administrative office will be closed.

Free Covid-19 testing at the city’s testing sites will occur as scheduled Monday. For information, visit Cambridgema.gov/testing.

Post offices will be closed, with street delivery limited to guaranteed overnight parcels and no collection of mail.