First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church hosts a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at the church, 114 Main St., Kennebunk, at 10 a.m. on Jan. 16.  Dan King photo

KENNEBUNK – Whether you live down the street, in some other community or three states away, folks are invited to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day with First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church at 10 a.m. on Jan. 16.

This year’s event will return in person and also will be available online. Advance registration is required for both, organizers say.

It will be the 20th year of the celebration that began in 2003.

Krystal Williams, founder and managing attorney for Providentia Group, a legal and business advisory firm whose mission is to create economic equity through entrepreneurship, is the keynote speaker. In 2020, the year she moved to Maine after hiking the Appalachian Trail, she founded Alpha Legal Foundation, a nonprofit focused on diversifying the legal profession.

Williams is a University of New England trustee and a technology advisor for Maine Technology Institute. She is a former director and equity officer for the ACLU of Maine and holds a J.D. from the University of Maine School of Law, an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and dual undergraduate degrees in mathematics and psychology from Williams College.

Her topic will be “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Answering the Call of Justice During Uncertain Times.”


The Rev. Lara Campbell will conduct a question-and-answer session following Williams’ remarks.

Pianist Christopher Staknys, the church’s music director and a Julliard School graduate, will perform music composed by Black musicians. He has appeared as a performer and composer in cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Paris, and Salzburg at venues like Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall.

“I am so excited about holding this event in person again, after two years online, especially since it’s our 20th anniversary,” said Vicki Adams, who organized the first MLK event at the historic church in 2003.

Krystal Williams Courtesy photo

Adams, noting this year is the 20th celebration, reflected on the early days.

“The first year, Rev. Roy Partridge, who had been an intern minister at St. David’s Church in Kennebunk, was our speaker,” she said. “He got the event off to a wonderful start and returned to speak at our 13th annual event. The first event started with a full breakfast served family style, and Rev. Partridge sat with his family at a table with event organizers.

“Our Parish Hall was full, seating about 90 people, and the room buzzed with excitement. At that time there was a Men’s Gospel Group led by Charles Brown, at Christ Church, which provided spirited music, and the event benefitted Seeds of Peace.”


Adams recalled at that first MLK Day event, she had invited the church men’s group to make scrambled eggs in the kitchen, and, she said, they discovered how hard it is to scramble eggs for 90 people all at once.

“Let’s say the kitchen floor was quite slippery once everyone was served,” she said. The meal reflected community spirit- sausage donated by a local sausage maker, oven baked potatoes, muffins, and clementines donated by parishioners.

Through the years, other speakers hailing from Maine included John Jenkins, artist Robert Shetterly, Anouar Majid of the University of New England and Shay Stewart Bouley of Black Girl in Maine, Adams recalled.

“As audiences grew larger, we moved the keynote speech to the sanctuary, where we could accommodate more people,” she said. “The warm reception of that first audience was awesome to me, having dreamed for some time of creating an event in honor of MLK in Kennebunk. It was an easy decision to continue it as an annual event. ”

Tickets are on sale through the church website,, and at the door: $15 for adults and $5 for students, both in person and on Zoom. Proceeds will benefit the Alpha Legal Foundation, that was founded by Williams. The event is sponsored by the Social Justice Network of First Parish.

Featured Guests through the Years


2003: The Rev. Roy Partridge; music by Men’s Gospel Group, led by Charles Brown, Christ Church.

2004: John Jenkins; music by Men’s Gospel Group, Christ Church.

2005: Robert Rooks, of Hartford, A Better Way Foundation; music by church choir with Kathy Rochon.

2006: The Rev. Carol Strecker, First Parish, service on oppression.

2007: Canceled by snowstorm. Donated to food bank and 50 percent of proceeds to Kennebunk Elementary PTA for Takisha Staats to encourage diverse training.

2008: Breakfast program.


2009: Breakfast program.

2010: Robert Shetterley, Maine artist and activist; portion of revenue to Kennebunk Elementary School and Middle School of the Kennebunks for diversity teaching.

2011: Community gardening presentation.

2012: Not available.

2013: Anouar Majid on Islam in America and Civil Rights.

2014: Maureen Gill on An Equal Opportunity Slave Master.


2015: Monica Grabin, speaker/music, History of the Civil Rights Movement in Song.

2016: The Rev. Roy Partridge, The Justice System and Injustice for People of Color.

2017: Josh Hoxie of the Institute for Policy Studies, The Growing Gap Between the Wealthy and the Rest of Us. Follow-up program, Chuck Collins, author of “Born on Third Base.”

2018: Shay Stewart Bouley, of Portland, Finding Courage in Turbulent Times. Music by Warren McPherson of Green Memorial Church, Portland.

2019: The Rev. Jeffrey M. McIlwain, chaplain, Cumerland County Jail, The Nature of the Arc. Music by North Star Gospel Jazz Ensemble.

2020: Kevin Wade Mitchell, Portsmouth, actor and historian from Black Heritage Trail, Black My Story, not His Story. Music by Monica Grabin.

2021: Karlene A.P. Burrell-McRae, dean of Colby College, Why are you so Afraid? Black Rage is Part of our Journey. Music by Samuel James Dewese.

2022: G. Christopher Hunt, Ed.D., vice president and dean for Equity and Inclusion at Moravian University, formerly of the University of New England, Dr. King’s Legacy and the Evolution of Activism, music video/collage of MLK, Corey L. Brown.

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