The Washington Wizards will recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 17, the federal holiday honoring the civil rights icon, when the team hosts the Philadelphia 76ers at Capital One Arena in downtown D.C.
The team also will hold a virtual Zoom roundtable discussion on Friday featuring Washington Mystics players Natasha Cloud and Alysha Clark, Wizards guard Daniel Gafford and retired Wizards player, poet and author Etan Thomas.
Jesse Washington, senior writer for The Undefeated, will moderate the roundtable and the topic deals with the role athletes play in social and community activism, the team announced Tuesday.
During the Wizards-76ers game on Monday, vocalists Brandon Camphor & One Way will sing the national anthem and perform their original song “Hope is Alive” during a timeout. There will be a spoken-word video about the federal holiday as well as video segments of players reflecting on the significance of King’s legacy.
Arena staffers and team personnel will wear a special MLK button during the game. The Wizards will display an “MLK in Color” photo gallery of the late civil rights leader’s life.
A poster will hang in Section 117 of the concourse on which fans can write about what the King holiday means for them. After the game, the poster will be donated to a community organization.
The team also announced the launch of an essay contest for D.C.-area middle and high school students that will run from Jan. 17-March 17. Participants should submit a 250-word essay about a community leader who has had a positive impact on their life.
The top essay of each of the middle and high school categories will be announced on March 31. The winners and the community leaders they wrote about will be recognized by the Wizards organization on April 8.
The essay winners will receive a scholarship and an invitation to a chalk talk with Edwin B. Henderson II, grandson of Dr. Edwin Bancroft Henderson, on the latter’s legacy of civil rights.
Henderson, himself a civil rights leader in the D.C. region, introduced basketball to Blacks in the District in the early 20th century and was a longtime physical education teacher and administrator for the segregated Black schools in the city.