How to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day throughout NYC


Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrates the civil rights leader’s birthday (on Jan. 15) and legacy of nonviolent resistance to achieve social change for Black Americans.

Celebrated on the third Monday of January every year since 1986, the holiday has become a reminder of the opportunity of community service. Beyond service opportunities, which volunteers can find through the Americorps directory, the city will be teeming with events that honor the social activist.

Tours of the Jackie Robinson Museum on Monday will spotlight Robinson and King’s friendship and collaboration during the civil rights movement. The museum is also hosting kid-friendly activities for children ages 5 to 13, and picture book readings.

Head to Harlem for the 17th annual Apollo Uptown MLK celebration, this year focusing on celebrating “young people impacting society through activism, engagement, and a commitment to justice” in partnership with WNYC. Notes from America host Kai Wright will moderate the first hour of the event and will be followed by music, spoken word and other performances with WQXR’s Terrance McKnight. This event is free, but requires tickets to RSVP.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is hosting its 37th annual tribute to MLK both in person or via livestream. In addition to a keynote speech by former president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Sherrilyn Ifill, the event rings in the new year with music and performances by artist Allison Russell and the Sing Harlem choir.

BAMKids is also celebrating the holiday with “Courage Takes Creativity,” a variety of artsy kid-friendly activities. Attendees can create photo art using historical pictures from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., enjoy soul energy dance sessions starting at 10:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 1:15 p.m. and 2:15 p.m., and express their values and causes through flag making all day.

The Queens Botanical Garden organized a crafts, a story time, and guided winter walk “centered on promoting love, hope and unity.”

For those looking to volunteer, Services for the Underserved is hosting a food drive on Monday at the Lefferts Day Habilitation Center in Queens. Volunteers will pack up and distribute food to New Yorkers living in supportive housing in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

The Morrisania Library in the Bronx is holding a crafts session for children to celebrate their inner artist and make art honoring Dr. King.

The Staten Island Children’s Museum will hold a special music program for the holiday featuring live vocal and keyboard performances by Staten Island Native Jeannine Otis and a dance party combining children’s music and music from the Civil Rights Movement.

NYC Parks is also hosting a number of nature cleanups, street tree care, and gardening events throughout the city. The department is also encouraging families to get creative with a freedom quilting program in the Bronx.


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