Black ExperienceNationalStacy M. Brown

America Honors Martin Luther King Jr.

Fifty-three years after Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, and 38 years after his birthdate became a national federal holiday, America is now facing another pivotal moment of national racial reckoning.

While parades and other festive gatherings for the heroic civil rights leader will not occur this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, national and local organizations throughout the country still will honor King’s legacy.

In Maryland, the nonprofit Civic Works plans to welcome groups of volunteers to participate in its annual MLK Day of Service.

The 9 a.m. plans include 150 volunteers banding together across nine sites [both physically with COVID-19 safety precautions, and virtually] to help green a vacant lot in Baltimore, landscape urban farms, sort clothes for AmeriCorps members, writing cards to seniors, and clean public spaces.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), hosts an 11 a.m. tribute that includes a keynote address from Black Lives Matter Global Network founder Alicia Garza. The event will stream on bam.org and also BAM’s YouTube and Vimeo channels.

In Florida, the Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee of St. Johns County will host the 36th annual commemorative event in the Lewis Auditorium in St. Augustine, Florida, and online as a virtual event in a celebration of the memory of King and the influence he had in the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

NNPA President and CEO Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is the featured speaker.

Chavis will address the theme, “Our Lives Begin to End the Day We Become Silent About Things That Matter.”

“Dr. King’s dream and courage for freedom, justice and equality for all must reaffirmed and practiced in 2021 across America and throughout the world,” Chavis said.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee is hosting “United We Serve: A Celebration of the National MLK Day of Service.” Participants include the Rev. Dr. Bernice King, Martin Luther King III, Chesca, Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Rosario Dawson, Andra Day, Yo-Yo Ma, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Sean Patrick Thomas, Diane Warren, Lynn Whitfield and BeBe Winans.

The event will be streamed live on at bideninaugural.org and on PIC social media platforms such as YouTubeTwitter and Facebook beginning at 8 p.m. EST Monday.

“This year’s inauguration will look different amid the pandemic, so we’re committed to providing dynamic programming that will engage more Americans than ever before, all from the safety of their homes,” said PIC CEO Tony Allen in a news release. “With the help of popular musicians and artists, rising stars, national, state and local leaders, and everyday Americans, we’re going to celebrate our diversity, honor those who are committed to service, and reflect on our history. We will come together as one nation, America united.”

In Houston, the 43rd annual Original MLK Day Virtual Experience & Live Parade of Giving occurs at MacGregor Park at 5225 Calhoun Road. There, residents are asked to drop-off donations to be distributed to those in need.

In Pennsylvania, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with its “Food justice is social justice” campaign.

The food bank will open one of its warehouses to 30 volunteers to prepare food for distribution across the organization’s 11-county service area from 9 a.m. to noon.

In Atlanta, the Beloved Community Commemorative Service caps a weeklong celebration of Dr. King’s life that features a keynote address by Bishop T.D. Jakes. The event occurs online and features remarks from Grammy-winning gospel artist Kirk Franklin and U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed.

The event will stream on Facebook and The King Center website.

In California, Stanford University’s four-day online festival honoring Dr. King’s life and legacy culminates on the holiday with musical performances, documentary films, and conversations inspired by the question, Where do we go from here?

“I hope the King Holiday can become an occasion for informing people about King’s legacy and how it relates to the King Institute, but more broadly, how it relates to the San Francisco Bay Area,” Clayborne Carson, the Martin Luther King Jr. Centennial Professor of History, Emeritus, at Stanford, and director of the King Institute, told the university’s news service.

“One of the things that will be made clear is that the King family has had a very special relationship with this area and with Stanford.”

In Detroit, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History hosts film screenings and other programming that includes a museum-wide livestream of the keynote speech by PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.

The Rev. Dr. Bernice King posted a heartfelt message of thanks on Twitter to all those observing her late father’s holiday.

“Thank you for the loving, sincere ways that you honored and celebrated my father on his birthday,” Bernice King wrote in the post that included a photo of her, her father and her mother.

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