10 Events to Celebrate MLK Day in the DC Area

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Commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with events and volunteer projects this weekend.

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January 15 marks the 95th birthday of civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King Jr. You can celebrate the life and legacy of the beloved reverend and activist at a number of local commemorations and Day of Service volunteer events.

MLK Holiday DC 6th Annual Prayer Breakfast

location_on 2616 Martin Luther King Jr Ave., SE

Matthews Memorial Baptist Church hosts a Saturday morning prayer breakfast in recognition of the holiday. This year’s keynote speaker is Minister Calique Barnes from Maryland’s Prayer and Praise Ministries. The meeting gathers faith leaders from across the District in support of the theme, “Bending Toward Peace, Truth and Justice” (Sat, $30).

MLK Holiday DC Peace Walk & Parade

location_on 2730 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., SE

For more than 40 years, the DC community has gathered in January to honor the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a peaceful march through the city. This year’s commemoration will begin with a peace rally and assembly at Martin Luther King Jr Avenue, SE at 9 AM, followed by the parade at 11 AM, and a volunteer-based neighborhood cleanup at noon. (Mon, free).

It Starts With Me!

location_on 901 G St., NW

The MLK Memorial Library is hosting a special “A Beyond the Book Celebration” in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The kid-friendly event features live music and spoken-word performances from area artists, as well as interactive activities (Mon, free).

The People’s Holiday at the Smithsonian

location_on 1400 Constitution Ave., NW

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is spotlighting “The Many Dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” The museum’s community day invites families to watch original works by Duke Ellington School of the Arts, create a Dr. King-inspired button, decorate journals for foster care children, and taste chocolate bourbon pecan pie from Sweet Home Café’s holiday menu (Mon, free, waitlist tickets available).

The Settles Quintet “Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.”

location_on 1073 Wisconsin Ave., NW

Add a late-night jazz concert to your holiday lineup at Blues Alley’s tribute show. Local couple and composers Brian Settles and Jessica Boykin-Settles’ band, the Settles Quintet, are headlining the evening. Expect to hear some of Dr. King’s favorite hymns performed by vocalist Jessica, while Brian keeps the rhythms going on the saxophone (Mon, $30).

MLK Memorial Wreath-Laying Ceremony

location_on 1964 Independence Ave., SW

This wreath-laying ceremony has been happening for more than a decade. Area scholars, leaders, and King relatives, including Martin Luther Jr. III, are convening at the historic Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial for a time of reflection and renewal (Mon, free).

Let Freedom Ring Celebration

location_on 2700 F St., NW and virtual

Singers Jordin Sparks, Nolan Williams Jr., and Cécile McLorin Salvant headline a musical tribute to social justice activist Martin Luther King Jr. on MLK Day of Service. The free show is sure to be a big one; tickets won’t be released to concertgoers until the day of the performance (Mon, free).

Anacostia Riverkeeper Clean Waterways

location_on 2900 M Pl. SE

Anacostia Riverkeeper is partnering with Pope Branch Park Restoration Alliance for an MLK Day cleanup at Pope Branch Park. There are two volunteer time options, at 10 AM and noon. Volunteers are encouraged to wear protective footwear and clothing that can get dirty (Mon, free).

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

location_on 1401 Duke St. Alexandria

Virginia’s Shiloh Baptist Church Historic Sanctuary is encouraging community members to spend the holiday at a variety of service projects. Volunteers can help prepare welcome baskets for family-safe shelter Bethany House, craft prayer blankets for the Juvenile Detention Center, and visit senior residences to play games and sing songs with the elderly (Mon, free).

Not Just Another Day Off

In-person registration to attend this poetry showcase is sold out, but you can watch the artistic live reading from the comfort of your home. Folger Theatre’s Not Just Another Day Off commemoration will feature music, poetry, and readings of King’s speeches from contemporary poets Kenneth Carroll and Alexa Patrick, actors Sara Barker and Louis E. Davis, and many others (Mon, free).

Briana A. Thomas is a local journalist, historian, and tour guide who specializes in the research of D.C. history and culture. She is the author of the Black history book, Black Broadway in Washington, D.C., a story that was first published in Washingtonian in 2016.

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