As the nation spent the weekend honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History hosted a variety of artists who paid tribute to King through music, dance and poetry.
Drawing over 4,800 visitors over the course of Sunday and Monday, the event featured a number of performances as part of a larger program highlighting King’s dedication to environmental and social justice.
Local music and dance groups, including Pan Jam, Lime Steel Band and the Nation Drill Squad Youth Program, performed alongside slam poets such as Roya Marsh and J-Sun. The live acts, most of which took place in the museum’s Great Hall of Dinosaurs, were collectively referred to as World Stage Performances. Peabody events coordinator Josue Irizarry said the name of the event reflected the diversity of the featured artists.
“We have called it the World Stage because the groups here come from different families and different cultures,” Irizarry said.
The World Stage Performances began on Sunday afternoon with the Neighborhood Music School Premier Jazz Ensemble, which has performed at the annual event for the past five years, according to conductor Jeff Fuller ’67 MUS ’69.
Andrew Fermo, a high-school student at the Neighborhood Music School who performed on Sunday with the ensemble, said he believes that the inclusion of live musical acts would attract more visitors to the museum.
Volunteer and organizing committee member Ellen Jaramillo echoed Fermo’s sentiment, adding that the diversity of performances gave visitors a wider worldview.
Other groups included the Solar Youth Drummers, which consists of young New Haven students who are members of Solar Youth — a neighborhood organization that encourages its members to become stewards of the environment and their communities, said Solar Youth program coordinator Gammy Moses. Solar Youth participants also reflected on King and his role in environmental justice through poetry and drumming, Moses added.
Groups encouraged visitors to participate during their performances, Irizarry said, adding that such an atmosphere served to engage the community. Families could then learn about environmental and social justice through the 30 interactive booths set up by different organizations throughout the museum, Irizarry noted. The featured booths included the Connecticut Audubon Society and the New Haven/León Sister City Project, which invited attendees to contribute to a local public art installation by crafting and decorating plastic bird silhouettes to be featured in the installation. New Haven/León Sister City Project Director Chris Schweitzer said the project would raise awareness for a more bird-friendly city, with less pollution and better public health.
The museum also held a teen summit, a workshop in which students could perform spoken word pieces or create videos and essays promoting environmental and social justice in honor of King. Additionally, the Peabody hosted both an open mic event and a slam poetry invitational, where 23 participants performed pieces, the majority of which focused on issues of race.
This is the Peabody’s 19th year hosting this event.