How to Celebrate Martin Luther King’s Birthday in 2021

Here are ways to commemorate Dr. King’s legacy, whether you want to commit to a day of service or learn about the history of the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King’s Birthday, a federal holiday observed on the third Monday in January, is a time to reflect on the legacy of the influential civil rights leader. It is also a federal holiday dedicated to a day of service, when Americans are encouraged to heed Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”

This year, the holiday falls on Jan. 18. While coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns disrupted plans for many in-person celebrations and volunteering efforts, there are plenty of safe activities you can take part in. The website of AmeriCorps, the federal public-service organization, has a directory where you can search for volunteer opportunities, while President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inaugural committee suggests creating cards for Covid-19 patients, knitting blankets for the homeless or hosting an online fund-raiser for a nonprofit organization.

Here are other resources for ways to commemorate Dr. King this week, whether you’re looking to do some good or engage in thoughtful conversation.

Hunger Free America, a national research and advocacy organization, will have an “M.L.K. Serve-a-Thon” on Jan. 18 and 19. In a series of virtual workshops, its partner agencies will discuss how food insecurity intersects with other social issues. They will also lead volunteering projects that can be done from home, like phone banking and raising awareness on social media.

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Hands on Atlanta, nonprofit organization that mobilizes civic engagement efforts, lists in-person activities across Atlanta — Dr. King’s hometown — on its website. It also offers virtual suggestions, such as Civic Dinners, a community engagement platform where people can host or attend virtual conversations under topics like “bridging the racial divide” and “grief and gratitude.


L.A. Works creates community service projects in the greater Los Angeles area. On Jan. 18, its website will host family-friendly virtual exhibitions of the 1963 March on Washington — created through the video game Minecraft. It’s also hosting online workshops and volunteering events focusing on how race affects homelessness, food insecurity and criminal justice.

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington is hosting a social justice-themed virtual concert by the jazz bassist and composer Christian McBride and students from the Juilliard School. Watch on Jan. 18 at 4 p.m. Eastern. Tickets are free, but registration is recommended.


The King Center in Atlanta wraps up its weeklong observance of the holiday on Jan. 18 with the Beloved Community Commemorative Service, featuring Bishop T.D. Jakes. Stream it at 10:30 a.m. Eastern on the center’s website or on Facebook Watch, or tune in on Fox 5 Atlanta.


Oregon State University’s annual celebration kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Eastern on Jan. 18 with a virtual event featuring the scholar, writer and activist Angela Davis. Tickets are free; register on Eventbrite.


The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, N.C., will host a daylong, online celebration on Jan. 18 that includes an aural history tour, a panel discussion and more. The event, which starts at 10 a.m. Eastern, is free, but registration is required.


Food Bank for New York City, a hunger relief organization,is holding a Zoom event at 11 a.m. Eastern on Jan. 18. Participating volunteers will write personal letters that will be distributed to New Yorkers in need by the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Queens.


The Art Institute of Chicago is hosting an online talk at 3 p.m. Eastern on Jan. 20 that will touch on justice, resistance and faith, inspired by the museum’s collection and Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” a landmark 1963 document Dr. King wrote while in solitary confinement. Registration for the event is required.


Dr. King studied at Morehouse College in Atlanta and the school is commemorating his legacy with a series of events, starting with a virtual forum with Lewis V. Baldwin, a professor emeritus of religious studies at Vanderbilt University, on Jan. 21 at 11 a.m. Eastern. Stream it on the college’s YouTube channel.

Where: inside.morehouse.eduRead More About the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Celebrating King the Activist (Not Just the Dreamer) in ArtJan. 15, 2021‘MLK/FBI’ Review: King, Hoover and the Tale of the TapeJan. 14, 2021Martin Luther King Jr. Day: 9 Ways to Honor His LegacyJan. 14, 2021

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