For the first time in eight years, Maine’s governor will attend a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration hosted by a local NAACP chapter.

Maine’s governors traditionally observed the holiday by attending events hosted by either the Portland or Bangor branch of the NAACP. But former Gov. Paul LePage clashed with the organization shortly after his inauguration in 2011. During his time as governor, LePage opted instead to attend the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast in Waterville, hosted by the local Rotary Club, which he had attended in the past as mayor of the city.

This year, however, newly elected Gov. Janet Mills will be one of the speakers at the 38th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance Celebration in Portland hosted by the NAACP. The King Fellows, a nonprofit student group focusing on racial equity and social justice in Greater Portland, has also arranged for a facilitated discussion between Mills and students of color before the dinner program.

“Governor Mills wants to ensure that everyone – the young, immigrants, people of different cultures, color, and orientations – feel at home in Maine,” Scott Ogden, a spokesman for the governor, wrote in an email. “She believes our diversity is a virtue – one that we should harness to advance good debate and policy, and her attendance at the Observance Celebration is a step in the direction of ensuring that everyone in Maine is respected and that everyone’s voices are welcomed in the public conversation.”

At her inauguration on Jan. 2, Mills, Maine’s first female governor, delivered a message of diversity, inclusion and hope. She called on a pastor, a rabbi and a member of Maine’s Wabanaki Tribe to offer blessings and invocations before she was sworn in. And during the ceremony, two Portland schoolgirls – originally from Angola and Namibia in southwest Africa – performed the pop song “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys.

Democratic state Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross, the longtime president of the NAACP’s Portland branch, said the group is “excited” to have the governor take part at Monday’s event in Portland.


“We’re always humbled to have the governor join us in this observance, and it affords our young people the opportunity to engage with our highest elected officials in the state in an atmosphere that is both reflective and purposeful, but also celebratory in many ways,” she told The Associated Press.

Following are some of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day events in Maine on Monday:

* The Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine will host a reading of “Happy Birthday Martin Luther” by Jean Marzollo. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the museum at 142 Free St. in Portland. Admission is free.

Bowdoin College will host a viewing of King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the 1963 March on Washington. The speech will be shown from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. in the dining room in Thorne Hall. It will be available in closed caption.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick will host its seventh annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Pasta Supper from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The church is located at 1 Middle St. in Brunswick. The event is a fundraiser for the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, which provides assistance to more than 1,300 families each year. The nonpartisan event is organized by the Brunswick Democratic Town Committee, and all members of the community are welcome to attend. The suggested donation for guests 10 or older is $10. For more information, contact Michelle Small at [email protected] or (207) 522-2012.

The 38th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance Celebration will take place from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Holiday Inn by the Bay at 88 Spring St. in Portland. The keynote address will be delivered by Naomi Walker, director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. The program will highlight the importance of volunteerism and recognize those who have devoted their lives to the advancement of civil rights in Maine through community service.


Tickets were sold out as of Friday, and they will not be held or sold at the door. All attendees are required to print their tickets. For more information, contact [email protected] Complimentary child care, which includes a child-friendly dinner, will be provided for ages 4 to 10 through AmeriCorps Alums. Registration is required, and for more information, contact Jenifer Craven at [email protected] Books will be on sale with a portion of the proceeds donated to the Boys and Girls Club of Portland. Attendees should also bring a pair of socks with them as a donation to people experiencing homelessness through the Warm Hearts, Warm Socks program from the Maine Senior Corps.

* The Colby College Martin Luther King Jr. Day keynote address will be given by Joy DeGruy, a scholar, educator and mental health professional, at 7 p.m. at Cotter Union, Page Commons Room, on the campus in Waterville. DeGruy has become a major voice in discussions about the lasting impact of enslavement on contemporary Americans, particularly African Americans, according to Colby.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. community breakfast in Waterville was canceled because of the weekend snowstorm, according to a post on the city’s website. And also apparently because of the weather, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast celebration on the campus of the University of Maine in Orono was postponed, according to the UMaine website.

Megan Gray can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemegan

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