Fifty-three years after Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination and 38 years after his birth date 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 did not occur this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, national and local organizations throughout the country still honored Dr. King’s legacy.
In Maryland, the nonprofit Civic Works welcomed groups of volunteers to participate in its annual MLK Day of Service.
Over 150 volunteers banded 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, write cards to seniors, and clean public spaces.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music (or BAM) hosted an 11 am tribute that included a keynote address from Black Lives Matter Global Network founder Alicia Garza. The event was streamed on bam.org and also BAM’s YouTube and Vimeo channels.
In Florida, the Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee of St. Johns County hosted the 36th annual Commemorative Event in the Lewis Auditorium in St. Augustine, Fla. and online as a virtual event in a celebration of the memory of Dr. King and the influence he had in the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
NNPA President/CEO, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. was the featured speaker.
Dr. Chavis addressed the theme ‘Our Lives Begin to End the Day We Become Silent about Things That Matter.’ Chavis stated: “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.”
The Presidential Inaugural Committee hosted ‘United We Serve: A Celebration of the National MLK Day of Service.’
Participants included Rev. Dr. Bernice King; Martin Luther King III; Chesca; Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan.; Rosario Dawson; Andra Day; Yo-Yo Ma; Rev. Al Sharpton; Sean Patrick Thomas; Diane Warren; Lynn Whitfield; and Bebe Winans.
The event was streamed live on <bideninaugural.org> and on PIC social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.
“This year’s inauguration was different amid the pandemic, so we were committed to providing dynamic programming that engaged 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 were able to celebrate our diversity, honor those who are committed to service, and reflect on our history. We came together as one nation, America united.”
In Houston, the 43rd annual Original MLK Day Virtual Experience & Live Parade of Giving occurred at MacGregor Park. There, residents are asked to drop-off donations to be distributed to those in need.
In Pennsylvania, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy with its ‘Food Justice is Social Justice’ campaign.
The food bank opened one of its warehouses to 30 volunteers to prepare food for distribution across the organization’s 11-county service area.
In Atlanta, the Beloved Community Commemorative Service capped a weeklong celebration of Dr. King’s life featuring a keynote address by Bishop T.D. Jakes. The online event featured remarks from Grammy-winning gospel artist Kirk Franklin and U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed.
The event was streamed on Facebook and The King Center website.
In California, Stanford University’s four-day online festival honoring Dr. King’s life and legacy culminated 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 was 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 hosted film screenings and other programming that included a museum-wide live stream of the keynote speech by PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.
Rev. Dr. Bernice King posted a heartfelt thank you 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.