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West Hartford to Celebrate Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Virtually

A portrait Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on display at West Hartford's annual celebration on Jan. 19, 2015. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

For the second year in a row, the Town of West Hartford’s annual Martin Luther King Day celebration will take place virtually, with a program that will premier on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, from 10-11:30 a.m.

Earl Exum will serve as emcee of West Hartford’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. Courtesy photo

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Janée Woods Weber will be the keynote speaker at the 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in West Hartford. Courtesy photo

The community is invited to the 26th annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, from 10:00-11:30 a.m., on West Hartford Community Interactive. Participants will deliver powerful and inspirational messages and music you will not want to miss.

Due to the pandemic, the event will be held virtually on West Hartford Community Interactive on Comcast Ch. 5, Frontier Ch. 6098, www.whctv.org, and YouTube.

This year’s keynote speaker is Janée Woods Weber, an activist, advocate, facilitator and trainer for social justice issues, and a West Hartford resident. Woods Weber is the executive director of Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, a statewide nonprofit organization that advocates for and empowers women and girls, especially those who are underserved or marginalized.

In May 2021, Woods Weber, with host Alvin Hall, won the inaugural Ambie for Best History Podcast from The Podcast Academy for their acclaimed podcast, “Driving the Green Book.”

She currently serves as the president of the Board of Directors for PoliticaCT, co-chair for the State Committee for the Connecticut Working Families Party, and is a board member for the Greater Hartford Arts Council and Training for Change. Woods Weber attended Williams College and Pace University School of Law.

Skylah Nelson. Courtesy photo

The 2022 celebration also includes a welcome from Mayor Shari Cantor and an invocation by The Right Reverend Dr. John L. Selders, Jr., Amistad United Church of Christ and co-founder, Moral Monday CT. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and Connecticut Attorney General William Tong will also speak.

Earl Exum will serve as master of ceremonies. Exum is president of the West Hartford African American Social & Cultural Organization and president of International Aero Engines AG, a multinational aero engine consortium whose shareholders comprise Pratt & Whitney, a unit of Raytheon Technologies Corp.

Grace Wright-Goodison. Courtesy photo

Two students from the town’s public high schools are selected annually to give their perspectives on Martin Luther King, Jr. This year’s students are Skylah Nelson of Conard High School and Grace Wright-Goodison of Hall High School.

This year’s event will feature a musical performance by Miles Wilson-Toliver, artistic director of Voices of Hartford. A gifted opera singer, Wilson-Toliver is one of the 10 artists fellows participating in the Artists of Color Accelerate, where he has been paired with the Hartford Opera Theater. He is also vice president of the Upper Albany Neighborhood Revitalization Zone and director of the Miles & Friends Mentorship Program.

The event also will also showcase the musical talents of West Hartford Public School students. They include the Hall High School Jazz Program, Hall High School Choraliers, Conard High School’s Voices of the World, and Bristow Middle School’s Voices of Bristow.

Miles Wilson Toliver. Photo by Leslie Gomez (courtesy photo)

The 2022 event will end with “We Shall Overcome” sung by Conard, Hall, Bristow, Sedgwick, and King Philip choirs. Viewers at home are encouraged to sing along.

Elementary and middle school students created collaborative and individual art to celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. This collection reflects a variety of messages that resonate with key ideas of Dr. King’s mission about making a positive difference in the world. May your heart connect with these meaningful expressions as we remember his significant place in history. Click here to view the artwork.

The West Hartford African American Social & Cultural Organization (WHAASCO), West Hartford Human Rights Commission, Concerned Parents of Color of West Hartford, the Witness Stones Project, Town of West Hartford, and West Hartford Public Schools are annual sponsors of the event.

Tune in on Monday at 10 a.m. to West Hartford Community Interactive on Comcast channel 5, Frontier channel 6098, whctv.org and YouTube.

This year’s theme centers around King’s book, “Strength to Love.” You can also read the excerpt of the transcript of Martin Luther King’s speech at Southern Methodist University, March 17, 1966.

For more information, contact Renée McCue, public relations specialist, Town of West Hartford at 860-561-7521 or email Renee@WestHartfordCT.gov.

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