BALTIMORE — Families flocked to Port Discovery last weekend in search of a meaningful way to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many were pleasantly surprised to walk into an array of planned activities sponsored by the children’s museum to help young patrons better understand the history and culture of the times.
Tracey and Clyde Walker from Baltimore County came looking for MLK activities to engage their children Eywa, 2, and Zariah, 4.
“[We] came out to celebrate MLK Day and bring the children out to something child-friendly,” said Tracey Walker. “I was actually grateful that they had something going on. I was shocked, actually, to see that they had a list of activities all day and to open the museum on Monday when they are usually closed really stood out to us.”
Children of all ages–from Upton to as far away as Pennsylvania –walked and skipped through the halls of Port Discovery from Saturday, Jan. 14 through the official King Day celebration on Jan. 16.
“I liked making something,” Walker’s young daughter Zariah beamed as she completed her quilting square with the help of volunteers from the African American Quilters of Baltimore, one of the many partners that helped Port Discovery Staff re-created the life and times of Dr. King.
“When we have special events like, [the] ‘I have a Dream Weekend,’ we engage community partners to come in and teach children things that they might not have been able to engage in otherwise. These are great opportunities to learn from different partners that are here in the community,” said Sarah Zimmerman, Port Discovery Outreach and Education staff.
The African American Quilters of Baltimore and the Museum of Negro Baseball Leagues Inc. are two long-time community partners that have participated in Port Discovery’s MLK activities for at least a decade.
“We’ve been doing this union between the museum and our organization for 10 years. A lot of the children come back each year,” said Paula, longtime member of the African American Quilters organization. The theme for this year’s quilt project was “Our Beloved Community.”
“We try to encourage the children to look at things in their community that are positive, inspirational and fun and put that on their quilt,” Paula said.
The weekend’s events also featured children from Northwood Elementary School posing as living historical figures in a project titled Living Museum of African-American History and arts and crafts workshops for children who wanted to create a birthday card for Dr. King.
“I’ve heard so many of the children say, ‘It’s about celebrating somebody who did so much,’” said Lisa Swayhoover, outreach education associate for Port Discovery, in describing the range of sentiments children expressed while creating their MLK cards—the one exhibition that brought children of all backgrounds together to write their reflections on Dr. King’s life.
“It’s very important to build that tolerance. I’m so happy that Port Discovery is making the effort to spend the time to celebrate [Dr. King] today and this weekend.”