‘Justice for Action’ honors MLK Legacy in East Liberty

Brentaro Yamane | Multimedia Editor | Emcee and vocalist Jacquea Mae (left) and guitarist Byron Nash (right) performed "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder at Kelly Strayhorn Theater on Monday, Jan. 15.

Kaitlyn Hughes | Staff Writer

Communities around the country gather together every year on the third Monday of January to carry out the dream of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Located in East Liberty, the Kelly Strayhorn Theater has been honoring the legacy of King for 14 years through a program known as ‘Justice for Action.’

The Alloy School Coordinator, Julia Kreutzer, explained that Kelly Strayhorn Theater is a place to uplift the talent within the community. She explained that the theater uses the artistic abilities of its performers to embody the message of King.

“We are really focused on inspiring and encouraging changemakers of the present and future to be inspired by predecessors like Martin Luther King Jr., to use their unique lens to create impact,” Kreutzer said.

This event provided members of the community with the chance to come together to remember the equality, freedom and justice King fought for.

As attendees arrived they were greeted by upbeat music, and they had the opportunity to converse with community partners such as True T Pgh, Young Black Motivated Kings & Queens, Repair the World, Assemble and City of Asylum.

City of Asylum is a nonprofit organization and bookstore in Pittsburgh that acts as a safe place for writers who have been persecuted from their countries due to controversial work. The collection of books they have reflects the mission of the organization. The assistant bookstore manager Jen Kraar commented on the importance of the organization’s presence at the event.

“Besides having a lot of translated books, we have historically underrepresented books, and we also have a commitment to our neighbors,” Kraar said. “We are part of the creative expression.”

Another reason the organization made an appearance at the event was to become more educated on how they can represent King’s goals all throughout life.

“I’m learning, and I think the idea of stepping back to make room is really important to me,” Kraar said. “That’s a big awareness for me now personally, and as an organization we feel that too. Sometimes we might not have or do what we want because it’s not our turn.”

MLK Day is an important day for education of civil rights, kindness and love for all.

Attendee Sarah Danforth brought her family to the performance to demonstrate to her kids the significance of this holiday.

“We try to parent with an antiracist lens and to be aware of our privilege,” Danforth said. “I try to always be learning how to better incorporate values of racial justice in every part of my life.”

Another attendee, Rosalyn Freeman, shared that there were not as many events that occurred around the city as she thought there would be for MLK Day. Freeman showed up to the theater because she wanted to be a part of an affair in King’s honor.

“I want to be reminded of his legacy,” Freeman said. “King was a big promoter of loving people, so I try to show love to everyone.”

This year the theater had a turnout of about 150 people who came to celebrate with the multitude of performers.The numerous speakers and dancers met the goal of sharing King’s legacy through their empowering words and performances.

Featured speakers and performers included state senator Jay Costa, councilman Khari Mosley, state representative La’Tasha D. Mayes, teaching artist Chrisala Brown, international artist Jaquea Mae, guitarist Byron Nash, K-Theatre Dance Complex, Hill Dance Academy Theater and Alumni Theater Company.

Brown and members of the Hill Dance Academy Theater allowed members of the audience to learn and participate in a West African style dance.

Throughout the show the energy of the room was lighthearted as attendees sang, clapped and danced along.

The marketing specialist at Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Mingsi Ma, enjoyed the familial aspect of the show the most.

“This is a community that is not like those sit-in theater commercial events where you are just sitting there without any engagement. You’re actually experiencing the community and engaging with the kids on stage,” Mae said.

Mae was not only a performer but an emcee during the entirety of the show. Her cheerful, optimistic energy was contagious to the audience members. Her goal on the stage, she said, is to create happiness for all.

“I want to share the joy I feel when I sing,” Mae said. “I’ve been blessed. Not everyone can sing, but the way that I sing is very special to me.”

For Mae, being creative is not only a way to share happiness, but it is also a way to heal, motivate and inspire.

“The change that I’m looking forward to seeing is more collaboration, more community, more of us working together to combat the injustices,” Mae said. “Racism, white supremacy, capitalism, all the things that push us apart and make sure we have a veil over our eyes.”