Martin Luther King, Jr. Image from Library of Congress
Every year, we honor the life and legacy of social activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose role in the American Civil Rights Movement and advocacy for nonviolent opposition has left its lasting impression on the world.
If you plan on celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, music tributes, days of service and a variety of other activities will be taking place across New York City. Here are 10 such events to check out and attend:
10. WNYC Annual MLK Day Celebration at the Apollo Theater
WNYC and the Apollo Theater will present its, 50 Years After MLK: A Dream Deferred, their 12th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration, which takes place on January 14, starting at 3pm. The afternoon will include conservations that explore the persistence of issues like wage inequality and police brutality, as well as the progress that has been made since Dr. King’s death in 1968.
Notable guest speakers this year include former attorney and MLK advisor Dr. Clarence Jones, Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors and 2008 Green Party vice presidential candidate Rosa Clemente. WNYC’s Peabody Award-winning host Brian Lehrer and local All Things Considered host Jami Floyd will moderate the afternoon, with WQXR’s Terrance McKnight as Master of Ceremonies.
9. Brooklyn Academy of Music Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Now in its 32nd year, this annual music tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the largest public celebration in honor of Dr. King. The event, organized by the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in partnership with the Brooklyn Borough President and Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, will not only bring together musicians, but also activists, intellectuals and civic leaders.
There will be a full day of free activities, including an art exhibition, a talk and movie screening. In addition, this year’s keynote speaker will be American writer and author, Jelani Cobb, who is a staff writer at The New Yorker. BAMcafé Live will also offer a weekend of music programming inspired by Dr. King and his vision.
8. King in New York at Museum of the City of New York
View of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressing a crowd gathered outside the United Nations following a march from Central Park on April 15, 1967. In his speech, Dr. King decried the Vietnam War as a racist war. Image from Museum of the City of New York.
On January 13, the Museum of the City of New York will debut its newest exhibition King in New York, which will focus on Martin Luther King Jr.’s experiences in New York City during the 1950s and 60s.
While there, also make sure check out the other outstanding exhibits at the museum right now, including Activist New York, which covers 350 years of fighting for freedom and equality in New York City, as well as New York At its Core: 400 Years of NYC History and the recently opened New York on Ice, Skating in the City. As part of the programming for Activist New York, visitors are invited to create their own protest posters on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
7. A Shared Dream Concert at Brooklyn College
For the 14th year, A Shared Dream Foundation presents its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert on January 15 at 5:30pm. The event will take place at the Walt Whitman Theater inside the Brooklyn College (2900 Bedford Ave.).
The evening’s festivities will include a variety of music performances from marching bands and award-winning gospel artists. Additionally, the concert will be presented by New York State Senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn, who will also give a speech in honor of the life and legacy of Dr. King.
6. Explore Harlem on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Explore the epicenter of African-American culture with our must visit neighborhood guides to Harlem and East Harlem. From major periods like the Harlem Renaissance to the neighborhood’s significance during the Civil Rights Movement, Harlem offers years of rich history and plenty of interesting sites to visit. Today, as the neighborhood’s economic growth persists, commercial businesses continue to move in and thrive.
On a self-guided tour, discover unique museums like the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, pay a visit to cultural sites like the Apollo Theater, and dine at some of our favorite, little-known gems.
5. Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. at Wave Hill
Wave Hill, a historic villa and public garden in the Bronx, will be celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a quilting event, which will be held in honor of the Freedom Quilting Bee, established after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited the Gee’s Bend Community in Alabama in 1966.
On Sunday, Jan 14, head to the Wave Hill from 10am to 1pm to make your own quilt squares using pieces of donated fabric. In addition, Wave Hill offers free admission on Tuesday and Saturday if you arrive before noon!
4. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at The Studio Museum
What better place to start MLK weekend than at The Studio Museum in Harlem? Founded in 1968, the museum supports the works of artists of African descent with a variety of programs including talks, tours, performances, educational programing for toddlers and seniors, and revolving exhibits in its large, open gallery spaces.
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it will host Hands On | Harlem Dreams, Legends, and Legacy workshop from 2pm to 6pm. The event will include art making workshops (Teen Photo Studio, Time Capsules, Mixed-Media Art, Scavenger Hunt, and In-Gallery Collage). You can also join a tour of the space, which begins at 1pm on the same day.
3. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at NYC Parks
Are you looking for a way to celebrate MLK Day by volunteering? While you can use this site to look for year-round opportunities, there are specific events held on or around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day every year. The Brooklyn Museum, for example, could use some extra hands for its programming over the weekend.
In addition, NYC Parks will host three days of service, including two events taking place at the Wave Hill Cultural Center in the Bronx, where you can create your own quilt squares; and a day of forest restoration at Ferry Point park, where volunteers will help to clean up debris by a planting site and the nearby shoreline. Make sure to come dressed for the occasion (warm layers and boots or sneakers are recommended)!
2. Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend at Riverside Church
Riverside Church was the site of Dr. King’s famous 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Riverside Church (490 Riverside Drive) will hold a tribute in word and song, which will take place in the Nave on Sunday, January 14th at 3 pm.
Also, make sure to read up on the secrets of the Riverside Church here.
1. Harlem Gospel Choir Performance
Harlem Gospel Choir will also perform at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill on January 15 at 12:30pm. Enjoy a “foot-stomping, hand-clapping” and joyous show, put on by the most renowned gospel choir in America, which currently travels the world and raises money for children’s charities.
Interestingly enough (and coming around in a full circle) the choir was founded in 1986 by Allen Bailey, who actually got the idea for it after he attended a celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Cotton Club in Harlem.