READING – A virus will change the way we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, but to hear Josh Goldlust, it won’t change the message of community, equality, and freedom.

With the theme “Beloved Community,” Reading will hold a virtual celebration on Martin Luther King Day, starting at 10 a.m. Monday on the Facebook page of the Human Relations Advisory Committee (HRAC).

“This year, we realized early on that during this unprecedented time of a pandemic, we could not rely on being together in Reading’s Performing Arts Center as one community,” said Goldlust, chair of HRAC. “So, we called out to the larger Reading community to submit short recordings that talk to Dr. King's vision of beloved community: “what does beloved community mean to them” and “how can Reading internalize that message.” Viewing pre-recorded materials during an all-remote event can be quite powerful, though it can't deliver the same impact as being in a room with your fellow residents, listening/ learning/ sharing in the 'give and take' of ideas.”

Every year Reading celebrates the message and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This is hosted by HRAC, which sponsors the outreach for educational programs that foster a greater understanding and appreciation for diversity to ensure the town is a vibrant and welcoming community.

In past years the program has been held at the RMHS Performing Arts Center. It started with breakfast in the hallway where non-profits in town set up tables and shared their group’s mission and message. HRAC then ran a program inside the center around a central theme from Dr. King. This year that theme is “Beloved Community” but while Covid-19 has closed the door on large gatherings, another door is opened with the virtual celebration just a few clicks away for residents.

After a difficult year in which we all became familiar with the names George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others, Monday’s celebration could be just what the doctor ordered. Add in the events in the nation’s capital last week and MLK’s message is even more timely.

“2020 was a year of tremendous social and economic upheaval, highlighting enormous inequalities for members of the same community,” said Goldlust. “While many experienced these inequalities every day, others were made more aware as events played out nationally and more locally. [Monday] is a day marked on the calendar to call out a very important individual who has been central to the message of equality for all. While we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's legacy, we should recognize that he has not been the only one, and it will take more than one day a year to truly create One Beloved Community.”

To view Monday’s event, go to Facebook.com/hracofreadingma. The link to the event will be available starting at 10 a.m.

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