The Martha’s Vineyard Branch of the NAACP is hosting a commemorative luncheon in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King on King Day 2018 (Jan. 15), at the Portuguese Club at 1 p.m. This is a particularly significant year because it is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of this great American.

The program will begin with greetings from Chapter President Erik Blake, followed by E. Jacqueline Hunt giving the invocation, setting the table for speakers to express their “Voices from the Community.” Marie Allen, Arthur Doubleday, Bob Hayden, Dolores Littles and William McLaurin represent a tremendous reservoir of history, personal connections and movement experiences that will surely captivate and educate all in attendance. Luncheon chair, Gretchen Tucker Underwood, has challenged all to come out not just to listen to the program but to bring your own reflections on where you were on April 4, 1968 when Dr. King was shot while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

Dr. King and wife Coretta were no strangers to Oak Bluffs. Like so many others, they too came to spend time at Joe Overton’s Villa Rose on Narragansett avenue, overlooking Nantucket Sound, during the civil rights days. In her book, On the Vineyard: A Year in the Life of an Island, author Jane Carpineto captures a reflection on Dr. King from Overton’s neighbor the late Sen. Royal Bolling. Sr. Bolling noted: “One morning I heard children’s voices in the next yard, and I looked over and there was Martin Luther King Jr. and his kids playing in my next-door neighbor’s yard. He was my hero. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had known him a long time back before he was famous, when we were fraternity brothers... but seeing him in the yard, that was something.”

Martin and Coretta, lest we be reminded, were students at Boston University and the New England Conservatory of Music respectively, when they met one another in Boston. Today there is renewed interest in creating a monument to them in greater Boston. Vineyard residents Carol Fulp, Joyce Ferribough Bolling and Flash and Bennie Wiley are working with Mayor Marty Walsh, Rev. Liz Walker and others to deliver on this long overdue memorial. So come on out and participate in this dynamic event and bring your own stories, vignettes, reflections and visions about Dr. King in 1968 and today.

Barbara Alleyne is becoming all things “Museum” this holiday season as she has hit the museum trifecta. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, and introduced this museum leadership to the Museum of African American History leadership in Boston earlier last month. Now she has recently returned from attending a “holiday bash” at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. She reports that she attended the “party of the decade” given by Diane and Craig Welburn of Waban Park. The Welburns are founding contributors to this new Smithsonian Museum that was dedicated on Sept. 24, 2016 on the Washington Mall in the nation’s capitol. They have been amazing troubadours for the importance of this historical edifice, its contents and its place in the evolution of the American narrative. Barbara observes that the Welburns closed down the museum so that 450 of their nearest and dearest could enjoy a private reception including tour guides to see this amazing collection of memorabilia. All were treated to food, music and a grand celebration of people and the visual fruits of this national treasure.

But this is not the first time the Welburns have had a rendezvous with history. Indeed Craig and Diane first rescued then renovated the former cottage of Dr. Cilian B. Powell of New York. Powell, joining Joe Overton and Mel Patrick, was one of three very popular Harlem confreres who held court in Oak Bluffs during the Age of Brooke. Owner of the Amsterdam News, pioneering radiologist, successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, Powell cast a large footprint in Oak Bluffs. After Powell and his wife died their property passed through a series of ownership interests that allowed the asset to deteriorate and become uninhabitable. The Welburns ordered a magnificent design that included a main house facing Tuckernuck avenue and a secondary structure that was attached to the main house but was recessed from the street. A third unit was constructed on the side street above the three car garage. Colorful and creative landscaping edged the property, all combining to preserve the legacy of the Powell family.

Congrats to Steve McKenna of 62 Trinity Park for sharing this year’s version of his gingerbread house with the Vineyard community that he has created over the past 39 years. Making the gingerbread house annually and restoring their own cottage has been a labor of love for him. His family discovered an 1870 photo of the original cottage and they have worked with an architect to painstakingly and meticulously recreate the original roof crest of the property. During this past Illumination Night the family celebrated with a sesquicentennial cake and commissioned Peter Simon to take a family portrait reminiscent of the 1870s photo. May your cottage continue to provide moments of family fun and enjoyment and we look forward to your gingerbread house creation in subsequent years.

Blessings to you and your families in the New Year, even as we all face the freezing winter days and strong winter winds of January. Even more to cherish when our warm summer days return in 2018. Snowbirds are having the best of both worlds and some of us are jealous.

Paradise on earth is the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it as life is fleeting.

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