Past ‘I am Billings’ community photo courtesy of Not in Our Town Billings
Several Montana cities are planning Martin Luther King Day celebrations with support from Pride Foundation’s sponsorship program.
In Missoula, the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) helps facilitate the community planning committee that has put on the January 21st event for years. This year, festivities begin with a rally at 5 p.m. at Caras Park with live drumming by Ben Coral. The rally will conclude with a candle-lit march for racial justice to the St. Paul Lutheran Church (202 Brooks St.) by 6 p.m. Montana Human Rights Network organizer Jamee Greer will deliver the keynote address this year, followed by dancing by the St. Ignatius Dance Troupe from the Flathead Indian Reservation.
In Helena, the Montana Human Rights Network will host their annual Lobby Day at the Capitol, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Email Jamee Greer at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up by this Friday. After a day of talking with legislators, you’ll deserve some fun! Head over to the Myrna Loy Center to reflect on the passage of the Helena Non-Discrimination Ordinance and discuss what still needs to be done to achieve King’s dream in the Queen City. The celebration will include food, beverages, conversation, and several short films with a social justice theme. The films start at 4 p.m., with the celebration to follow at 5:30. Montana Human Rights Network is a longtime grantee of Pride Foundation.
Not in Our Town-Billings will play a major role in their community’s multi-day celebration with sponsorship support from Pride Foundation, Yellowstone AIDS Project, Grace United Methodist Church, Montana State University-Billings, and current board chair and Pride Foundation volunteer Eran Thompson.
Events in Billings kick off Wednesday, January 16, with the Bahai Community’s free presentation titled, “The Purpose of Justice: Unity” at the Doll Museum, located at 3206 6th Ave. North.
On Friday, January 18, the Bahai faith and Not in Our Town come together to host indigenous performer Kevin Locke (Tokeya Inajin in Lakota), internationally known for his Northern Plains flute playing, traditional storytelling, visionary hoop dancing, and cultural knowledge. The free performance is at 7:00 PM and the location is TBD. Call 406-839-6734 for details.
On Saturday, January 19, is the 3rd Annual “I Am Billings” Community Photo. Join diverse friends, family, and neighbors of every race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, and gender identity in the spirit of the Martin Luther King holiday. Participants should meet at 1 p.m. at the Pioneer Park near the northeast tennis courts.
“The real reason we do the MLK community photo is because we want to give folks a chance to come together and enjoy being a community,” Thompson explained. “It is an opportunity to come with neighbors, family friends, and strangers. It doesn’t matter their color, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity – we are all together to say we are a part of this community.”
After you’ve warmed up from the photo, head over to the Billings Food Bank at 2112 4thAve. North at 6 p.m. for the annual Martin Luther King soul food dinner and fundraiser hosted by the Black Heritage Foundation. Tickets are $10. Call Melvin Terry at 690-3644 or email email@example.com for tickets or more information.
On Sunday, Jan. 20, the celebration continues in Billings with an interfaith service at 3 p.m. at First United Congregational Church, 310 North 27th Street. Not in Our Town’s own Eran Thompson will deliver a Martin Luther King Jr. sermon apropos to the theme, and there will be readings and music from the many faiths.
The MSU-Billings campus ushers in the actual holiday, Jan. 21, with a bell-ringing ceremony at 9:45 a.m., at the corner of Rimrock and Normal Aves. Afterward, there will be a march to the Student Union building followed by speakers and entertainment.
More candlelight vigil and marching fun will ensue at 6:00 PM on the Yellowstone County Courthouse lawn, 217 North 27th. After a short program, this Black Heritage Foundation group moves to the Lincoln Center, 415 North 30th, for the 7:00 PM celebration, featuring a keynote by civil rights leader Dr. Charles McDew.
Caitlin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Montana. Email Caitlin.