Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Hannah Center exhibit commemorates 50th anniversary of MLK's death

March 30, 2018
<p>The Martin Luther King Jr. art exhibit on March 27, 2018 at the Hannah Community Center Art Gallery. (Annie Barker | State News)</p>

The Martin Luther King Jr. art exhibit on March 27, 2018 at the Hannah Community Center Art Gallery. (Annie Barker | State News)

Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Remembering Martin, an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., opened at the Hannah Community Center's public art gallery on March 4.

The free exhibit, organized by the Greater Lansing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission, includes photographs and writings of the famed civil rights activist who was shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

Remembering Martin will run through May 1 and will be open to the public during gallery hours: 

  • Monday-Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

The exhibit features a photographic timeline of King's accomplishments, from his involvement in the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 to his assassination, said Elaine Hardy, community center coordinator at Hannah.

"What the exhibit does is it highlights flash-points within that movement," Hardy said.

The doors at the entry to the exhibit feature "Colored" and "White" signs, similar to ones used to segregate bathrooms, water fountains and restaurants in the South during the Jim Crow era.

Some artifacts within are signed by prominent Americans, including civil rights activist Diane Nash, R&B singer India Arie — who performed at the 2017 Holiday Commission luncheon — and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia.

Lewis, the civil rights icon who has served in the U.S. House for more than 30 years,  became emotional upon seeing the pictures commemorating his work, Hardy said. He signed all of the photos featuring him when he was in town for the 2014 One Book, One Community event.

Various pamphlets from past Commission luncheons are on display, as well as a program from the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

The Holiday Commission, in existence since 1981, established the Lansing region as a pioneer in recognizing King's birthday as a holiday.

A 1987 proclamation from then-Lansing Mayor Terry McKane, on display at the exhibit, details the city's decision to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a formal holiday "for the sixth year in succession." 

East Lansing established King's birthday as a holiday in 1982 — the same time as Lansing, Hardy said. It was first celebrated as a federal holiday a year prior to that document in 1986.

Hardy said it's important to commemorate King, as although it's been 50 years since King's death, many of the issues he fought for have yet to be resolved.

"There's still work for us to be done for us to reach Dr. King's beloved community," Hardy said. "We have to be aware that there are new challenges to our civil liberties."

Along with the exhibit, the Commission will also hold a bell-ringing program on April 4 at 5:45 p.m. on the steps of the Capitol in downtown Lansing. When the clock hits 6:01 p.m., it will chime 39 times for each year of King's life, marking exactly 50 years since he was shot.

Hardy said other events planned to commemorate King's life and assassination include:

  • A march on MSU's campus on April 4
  • A bell-ringing on campus on April 9, the day of King's funeral
  • A celebration at the Hannah Center on April 11 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the 1968 Civil Rights Act

This is not the first East Lansing event surrounding the 50th anniversary of King's death. On Jan. 15, community members gathered at the Union and braved snowy conditions for a march to Beaumont Tower to celebrate King's birthday.

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