Updated for 2023
In the United States, the third Monday of January is known as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – a day to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King. (Dr. King was born on January 15th, 1929.) This federal holiday is also the only national holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer in their communities.
Here are a number of ways to celebrate MLK Day, and incorporate Dr. King’s lessons and legacy, into every day.
Things to do to Honor Martin Luther King, Jr.
11th Annual MLK Day Clothing Drive & Community Breakfast
24th St. Elementary School
2055 W. 24th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90018
Big Sunday will be hosting its Annual MLK Day Clothing Drive & Community Breakfast on Monday, January 16th. Volunteers will be packing and giving away “at least 1,500 cold-weather kits for homeless people, including sweatshirts, socks, hats, scarves and more.” Other activities include a Civil Rights exhibit as well as the Something in Common Project, “where everyone is asked to meet a total stranger, find something that they have in common, and have their picture taken together.” There are many ways to get involved including volunteering on-site, donating new clothes and shoes, sponsoring a new clothing bag, and more. And, there will be a “delicious community breakfast together.” Details and registration information are available online.
King Day 2023
California African American Museum
600 State Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90037
The California African American Museum invites families to its King Day 2023 special event happening on Monday, January 16th from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. “This year’s theme is ‘MLK: A Legacy of Service’ and the program includes a performance by the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, the King Study Group, family activities provided by the Los Angeles Public Library, and more.” Check the website for more details as they become available.
Long Beach MLK Day of Service
The City of Long Beach invites families to participate in the 13th Annual MLK Day of Service on Monday, January 16th. Service projects will be completed between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm. Check the website for more details as they become available.
MLK Day of Service
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
3911 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90037
On Monday, January 16th, 2023, families are invited to join the L.A. Works MLK Day of Service. “At the LA Memorial Coliseum in 1964, Dr. King passionately and persuasively addressed 15,000 Angelenos on the issues of race relations and human dignity.” In 2023, the event features a Food Festival and Nonprofit Fair, speakers, and hands-on volunteer activities. The day is designed to empower “Angelenos to take collective action in the fight for food and climate justice.” Details are available online.
38th Annual Kingdom Day Parade
Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
The 38th Annual Kingdom Day Parade is scheduled for Monday, January 16th, 2023 at 11:00 am. This year, the parade’s theme is “America, The Last Best Hope of the World.” The parade is a televised event and is described as “America’s biggest and oldest birthday celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King.” The parade features marching bands, community groups, local politicians, and more.
MLK Holiday Concert
John Adams Middle School Performing Arts Center
1630 Pearl St., Santa Monica, CA 90405
The Santa Monica Symphony is performing their Annual MLK Holiday Concert on Saturday, January 14th from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. (Doors open at 2:00 pm.) Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with this special annual concert. The concert is free, but pre-registration is required due to limited seating.
Free Entrance Day – National Park System
To celebrate the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. the National Park Service will waive entrance fees on Monday, January 16th. In addition, “it is also a day of service when hundreds of volunteers participate in service projects at parks across the country.” You can check the website to find volunteer opportunities.
The Civil Rights Struggles & Triumphs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – Virtual Event
Families may register for The Civil Rights Struggles & Triumphs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, a virtual discussion, happening on Monday, January 16th. The one-hour event will feature Professor Kristopher Burrell exploring the “civil rights activities and triumphs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in recognition of the national holiday.” Reservations may be made online and are required to receive the link to the livestream of this talk.
Minecraft March on Washington – Virtual Event
“Community members will be invited to join together in the Minecraft video game for the recreation of the 1963 March on Washington to meet and learn from climate and food justice activists, among others.” Check the website for more details as they become available.
Walk to Celebrate the Life and Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Redondo Beach Pier Police Sub-Station
101 W. Torrance Blvd., Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Redondo Beach Police Department’s Community Engagement Board invites families to participate in the Walk to Celebrate the Life and Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, January 16th from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm. Families are also asked to bring a hygiene kit to donate. All kits will be donated to the RBPD Domestic Violence Advocacy Program. Details and registration information are available online.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade and Celebration
Martin Luther King Jr. Park
1950 Lemon Ave., Long Beach, CA
The City of Long Beach invites families to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade and Celebration happening on Saturday, January 14th, 2023. The festivities include a parade (starting at 10:00 am) as well as a celebration in the park. Enjoy live performances, a health and wellness area, a special youth area, food and merchandise vendors, and more. Details, including the parade route, are available online.
28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Walk-A-Thon
Walk starts at Bordwell Park’s Stratton Community Center
2008 MLK Blvd., Riverside, CA
The Riverside African American Historical Society is hosting the 28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Walk-A-Thon on Monday, January 16th. This year’s theme is “A Legacy of Strength, A Future of Action.” There is no registration fee for children under 12. Details are available online.
MLK Jr. Celebration: Freedom For All
Culver City Veterans Memorial Auditorium
4117 Overland Ave., Culver City, CA 90230
The City of Culver City invites families to its MLK Jr. Celebration: Freedom For All event happening on Saturday, January 14th from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. This free program features a welcome from Culver City Mayor Albert Vera, musical performances, actor Gerald C. Rivers performing a collection of Dr. King’s speeches, and more. No RSVP necessary.
MLK Jr. Day of Service
White Point Nature Preserve
1600 W. Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro, CA 90731
Families are invited to come out to the White Point Nature Preserve on Monday, January 16th from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm for MLK Jr. Day of Service. Participants will “help care for the White Point Native Plant Demonstration Garden by removing invasive weeds, watering native plants, grooming trails and more!” Sign up online.
To Listen in Honor of MLK
Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” Song
Many people may not know that musician Stevie Wonder worked tirelessly to help recognize Dr. King’s birthday as a national holiday. It was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. This upbeat song features lyrics written as a tribute to Dr. King.
To Watch to Celebrate MLK
Our Friend, Martin is “an adventure inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.” This time-traveling adventure takes two middle school friends back in time to learn about, and meet, Dr. King. The film is a mix of documentary footage and animation and is recommended for children 8 and older.
For older kids, watch the 2014 film Selma featuring David Oyelowo as Dr. King. The movie is a powerful depiction of Dr. King’s “campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.”
Books To Read in Honor of MLK
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport. This popular picture book uses some of the words from Dr. King’s speeches to help tell his life story.
Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.? by Bonnie Bader. The popular “Who Was” series has a biography of Dr. King’s life, including his early years, his nonviolent protests, all accompanied by 80 black-and-white illustrations.
National Geographic Kids: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Kitson Jazynka. This book is often found in classroom libraries. In addition to text, the book features timetables, diagrams, sidebars all designed to keep readers interested and engaged.
The Story of Martin Luther King Jr: A Biography Book for New Readers by Christine Platt. This book features bold illustrations and tells the story of Dr. King’s life, explaining the steps he took to make his dream a reality.
A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr by David A. Adler. Many parents and teachers are familiar with this series of biographies which serve as great introductions to famous individuals throughout history.
Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford. This book is written as a “dual narrative of the key moments of Dr. King’s life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him.”
I Have a Dream (Book and CD) by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Families can listen to Dr. King’s famous speech on an audio CD as they look at the book featuring realistic paintings.
Show Me History: Martin Luther King Jr.: Voice for Equality! by James Buckley Jr. This book, part of the Show Me History series, tells the story of Dr. King’s life as a graphic novel. Full-color illustrations may entice more reluctant readers.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone. A young African-American boy begins writing a journal, as a series of letters to Dr. King. What would Dr. King do? How would Dr. King handle this situation? This book serves as a wonderful conversation starter for older readers.
To Learn More About Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The King Center
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (also known as The King Center) was established in 1968 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King. The website has lots of information regarding days of special programming scheduled to commemorate The King Holiday Observance 2022. Virtual events begin on Monday, January 10th and continue through Monday, January 17th. In addition, the National Park Service offers resources to virtually explore the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta which you can access by clicking here.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC is a part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks. Online, you’ll find photos and videos related to the memorial as well as more facts about the design and construction of the Memorial.
Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher who has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles zip code. You can read more from Wendy at her website WendyKennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).