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MLK Dream Week aims to educate and inspire area

Emanations of the peace and unity in Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons hold true today, said the cross-organizational planners of the second annual Dream Week, who are emphasizing “strength through love” — this iteration’s theme.

From Jan. 18 to 23, organizers have created a week of education and opportunities for service, said Emily Gale, program manager with STEP AmeriCorps.

“What we found quite a few years ago is that one day wasn’t enough we wanted people to remember the message of MLK and not serve for one day and forget about it,” she said.

The annual peace walk begins Saturday at 10 a.m. Participants may meet in front at 1 College Ave., the Academic Center on Penn College’s campus. Then, at 10:45 a.m., the walkers plan to return to the Academic Center for a musical celebration and speaker.

On Sunday Tony White, a professor at Penn College, will host an Alternative to Violence Mini-workshop from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Christ Episocpal Church, 426 Mulberry St.

A center of focus this year is Monday’s day of service from 9 a.m. to noon at the Lycoming College Recreation Center.

The service day drew 250 people last year to pack meal bags, and with more people expected to attend, Gale said the volunteers this year will be given more responsibilities.

“All of this year’s volunteers will be doing everything from start to finish: assembling boxes, collecting what they need and then putting the assembly line together to get the bags of boxes packed and put on the pallets,” she said.

In a total of 10 stations specializing in fruit, vegetables, and meal kits for children and families, community members are expected to pack 2500 bags, which will be delivered to those who need it in our area.

“By teaching people to give back to the community — to volunteer — I think it helps people to meet new people and understand that there’s organizations to help people,” Gale said.

“Plus you never know who might need help, so giving back to others is always encouraged,” she added.

Part of the reason for asking the volunteers to do more is that they finished too soon last year to connection with each other.

“It’s about making new connections with new people that you wouldn’t normally talk to and hopefully the relationships will last beyond that day,” said Gale.

“Harriet,” a movie about Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and heroic actions, will be played at Lycoming College’s Krapf gateway Center’s Troegner Presentation Room, at 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday.

Concluding the events is Mike Africa Jr., a motivational speaker and hip-hop artist.

Samantha Davis, coordinator of diversity and student engagement at Penn College and Mallorie Weyemr, director of civic engagement and personal development coordinated Africa’s visit and said they found Africa’s sanguine message impactful.

“Hearing his biography and background is really powerful,” Davis said.

Africa was born in prison after his parents, who were members of MOVE — a black liberation group — were arrested and convicted of third-degree murder when one of their members shot and killed a police officer during a Philadelphia shootout in 1978.

In court, however, the group claimed the officer was killed in “friendly fire” by police.

Africa’s mother and father were released on parole in June and October 2018, respectively, after 40 years in prison.

“It will bring a really good message to Williamsport and our community on how these stories happen in our greater area,” said Davis.

In all, the week’s events are designed to teach participants to invest in their community’s resources and people, said Gale.

“Love where you live, and live what you love,” she said.

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