A weekend of service and reflection – honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I hope that you won’t allow current tensions to distract or dissuade you from participating in activities honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King on the January 17-19 holiday weekend.

The national dialogue around ethnic and race relations has been especially heated in recent months. I hope that you won’t allow current tensions to distract or dissuade you from participating in activities honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King on the January 17-19 holiday weekend. Here are some of the best options to make your holiday weekend both meaningful and enjoyable.

Each day, our city’s community centers connect Nashvillians of all ages with valuable resources.Hands On Nashville is recruiting volunteers to brighten and improve four Metro Parks Community Centers as part of a its MLK Days of Service campaign. More than 800 volunteers are needed on Saturday, Jan. 17 and Monday, Jan. 19 to support these important neighborhood spaces. Activities such as painting and cleaning are scheduled to take place in the morning; volunteer shifts will end around lunchtime.

After a Saturday shift of painting and cleaning, how about lunch at one of Nashville’s outstanding ethnic restaurants? Many of these family-owned restaurants are run by first-generation immigrants, who take pride in serving delicious and authentic dishes of their homeland to their new hometown neighbors. Among my favorites in South Nashville are Guantanamera Restaurant on Nolensville Rd. near Grassmere, and Gojo Ethiopian Restaurant on W. Thompson Lane.

Not all of us are of an age where we can fully recall or appreciate Dr. King’s efforts to promote integration and equality in the U.S. (and particularly in the South). The Selma movie (rated PG-13) dramatizes his hard-fought efforts to end discrimination in voter registration – efforts that culminated in the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This movie is currently being widely shown at Regal and Carmike theaters – go with a friend or loved one, and plan time after the movie for discussion.

Sunday’s observances across Nashville will be largely church-centered, but some Nashvillians were fortunate enough to get tickets for Let Freedom Sing, held Sunday evening at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center downtown. This free event features the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and special guests performing a mix of spirituals, popular songs and classical music honoring the triumphs of the civil rights movement. Unfortunately, no tickets remain for this event.

Vanderbilt University is sponsoring a weekend-long schedule of events and observances for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  holiday weekend, culminating with a Monday afternoon of “Teach-Ins” and an evening keynote address by former U.N. ambassador, the Honorable Andrew Young. Tickets are free and available to the public (limit 4 per person) at the Vanderbilt Sarratt box office.

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The Athens of the South – 5 ways to expand your mind in Nashville this winter

Nashville has lots to offer in the way of educational opportunities – we earned our nickname “Athens of the South” well before the Parthenon replica was built.

At this time of year, lots of folks are thinking about how to improve their lives in the year ahead. In my opinion, one of the most enjoyable ways to improve your life is to learn about new things. Fortunately, Nashville has lots to offer in the way of educational opportunities – we earned our nickname “Athens of the South” well before the Parthenon replica was built for the 1897 state Centennial celebration. Here are five ways I’m planning to expand my mind in coming months:

Nashville Parks and Recreation offers a variety of wintertime classes and activities at facilities in our area. The activities at Warner Parks Nature Center are generally free, have an outdoorsy focus, and offer a good excuse to get some light exercise in one of Nashville’s most beautiful parks. This year, I’m signing up to learn about invasive plant species while volunteering to help eradicate these interlopers in our natural forests. (Later, I’ll put the knowledge to good use in our own backyard!) You can find a class or activity to suit your style on the Nashville Parks & Recreation website.

University School of Nashville (formerly Peabody Demonstration School) is a private, co-educational, K-12 day school located adjacent to the Vanderbilt campus on Edgehill Avenue. Each winter, they put together an eclectic catalog of Evening Classes targeted toward adult learners. In past years, I’ve learned the basics of using a digital SLR camera and explored the ins and outs of keeping backyard chickens. This year I’m going to learn about blogging (cart-before-the-horse moment) and how to bake a baguette like a pro. Prices vary – see the attached catalog for more information.

We’re just weeks past the 150th anniversaries of the Civil War battles in Franklin and Nashville. In November, I saw my first-ever battle reenactment at the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, and was able to learn more in that day than I recall ever learning in school. I care little and less about antique firearms or battle strategies, but I’m fascinated by the heroism and touched by the monumental sacrifice of area families during the war. I’ve recently started reading Robert Hicks’ bestseller, The Widow of the South, and plan to revisit the historic Carter House and Carnton Plantation one weekend soon.

Speaking of books – each year I value the serious readers of my Book Club more. If you don’t currently belong to a REAL book club, I heartily recommend you find one. (But for heaven’s sake, don’t quit your fun book club!) You can join a book club at Parnassus Books in Green Hills, or ask at your local Metro Nashville Public Library branch.

Wintertime is also a great time to spend a few hours in a museum. Like many Nashville natives, I don’t take full advantage of the attractions our city has to offer. Before Spring, I’ll make a point of visiting The Upper Room to see the nearly life-sized woodcarving of The Last Supper and tour the Christian Art Museum there. I also want to check out The Musicians Hall of Fame in its new location at the Municipal Auditorium.

At first glance, that may seem like an ambitious agenda, but remember that these mind-expanding activities are meant to be spread out over the entire season – there will be plenty of time for Nashville’s other diversions!

Ringing in 2015

In recent years, I’ve developed an informal following among my friends and professional colleagues. People ask me what I’ve got planned for an upcoming weekend – or seek advice about good activities for showing visiting friends or relatives around the Nashville/Middle Tennessee area.

I am a planner. It’s in my nature to spend almost as much time thinking about the best way to spend an (evening/holiday/weekend/vacation) as I actually do on the activity itself. I enjoy the planning process. I also enjoy the results, whether the planning was my own or someone else’s.

In recent years, I’ve developed an informal following among my friends and professional colleagues. People ask me what I’ve got planned for an upcoming weekend – or seek advice about good activities for showing visiting friends or relatives around the Nashville/Middle Tennessee area. Even though there are other sites with event calendars, I think followers of my blog can expect some extra insight into goings-on that would suit ‘most anyone seeking to experience the diversity of fun and interesting things to do around town.

The fact that I am posting this on New Year’s Eve – about New Year’s Eve – is not something I’m especially proud of. Even though there are lots of tempting, fun music-related things going on in Nashville for New Years Eve (including the Bash on Broadway and fun concerts at The Ryman, City Winery, 3rd & Lindsley, The Sutler and other favorite venues), we’re planning a potluck Italian dinner with friends and neighbors. Plenty of good food and wine – I’m contributing homemade meatballs and sauce from my freezer. We’ll toast the New Year at midnight and almost immediately disband. There are parties to attend, and bowl games to watch, on January 1!

Have fun tonight, and be safe!