Safety Forum and Services Round Out MLK Weekend Events
Celebrations for Martin Luther King Day begin Jan. 14, at St. James Baptist Church and include a forum with local law enforcement agencies, a day of volunteerism and a celebration service expected to bring together local and state leaders.
If you're looking forward to Woonsocket's Martin Luther King Day Celebration on Jan. 17, keep the weekend free, as St. James Baptist Church on South Main Street will provide opportunities for learning, community service and prayer in honor of the civil rights leader.
On Jan. 14, the church is holding a public safety forum with the help of Woonsocket Police Chief Thomas Carey and his wife, who are on the church's MLK planning committee.
Carol Wilson-Allen, senior academic secretary for Brown University Department of Comparative Literature, has been coordinating events for the weekend in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. Wilson-Allen is a member of the church's James W. Hinson Scholarship Ministry, the group that first started the church's annual celebration. "We decided we wanted to do something on Public Safety because there's so much going on in the city, between the drugs and the gangs that are out there, so we decided to ask Chief Carey and other professionals to speak," she said.
"One concern I always have is perception," Carey said of the forum, which will include a segment on traffic stops. "When you get pulled over, it can be intimidating for anyone, but I want the audience to understand what happens during a traffic violation to help reduce anxiety."
Many teenagers are expected to attend the event and Carey sees it as an opportunity to open lines of communication. "We want them to see our officers in a different light."
The forum will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the church at 340 South Main St. with speeches by Carey along with Det. Leclaire and Officer Chapman from the Woonsocket Police Department, Col. Brendan Doherty from the Lincoln State Police Barracks, and Director A.T. Walls from the Department of Corrections/ACI. The group is expected to speak on topics ranging from gang activity to crowd control, and will address ways to increase public safety through open communication using services like the police tip line (769-4444) and department's website — www.woonsocketpolice.com.
On Jan. 16 at 4 p.m., the church is holding a celebration service in honor of Dr. King, with Rev. Eugene Kinslow from All Nations Church of God in Christ as the speaker. Members of both the City Council and School Committee have attended past years at the church and said a few words to honor the leader. Last year, Mayor Leo Fontaine led a sing-along on the piano. "He has a beautiful voice,"said Wilson-Allen. Former "Mayor Cicilline said he's interested in coming," she added. Cicilline is now U.S. Representative for Rhode Island's 1st congressional district.
Jan. 17 is the church's day of service, which starts with a luncheon to feed those in need from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Food is being prepared by George Nasuti, principle of Citizens' Memorial Elementary School, Sue Marsella of the Woonsocket Culinary Career Center and students from the Woonsocket Public School system. Afterward, "teams" will go out to be of service in the community. Activities include reading to seniors at nursing homes and helping people in need with basic tasks, like shoveling.
"Usually, they do a march. We decided not to march because we want to serve the community. He was about service," Marsella said of Dr. King. "I love helping other people and I want people to see what it's like to go out and help."
Anyone interested in volunteering for the day of service can contact Wilson-Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org or, she said, just show up at the church that day and join one of the teams after the lunch.
The weekend will end with a celebration at Stadium Theatre including performances in dance, theatre, jazz, gospel, folk, hip-hop, African drumming, spoken word and pop. The stadium event, which runs from 2 to 6 p.m., is free and open to all ages.