Roughly 36 years ago, the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day was held in the United States to celebrate the life and legacy of the great civil rights exemplar—who famously revealed his dreams for equity and harmony just miles south of Baltimore in 1963. Each year around King’s birthday, on the third Monday in January, commemorations ranging from parades to lectures take place to honor his messages—which resonate with countless generations since his passing. Below, find our list of ways to honor Dr. King with everything from art to film.
Listen to a Recorded Lecture
Dig through the digital archive of the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day lectures. Start with last year’s speech by Princeton University professor and Democracy in Black author Eddie Glaude—who explores “what we all must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a new America.” You can also add commemorative lectures by author and labor economist Dr. Julianna Malveaux—as well as a panel of Black fathers discussing the superpowers they possess—to your listening list.
Jan. 16-17: Visit the B&O Railroad Museum
Starting Sunday, visit the Pratt Street Museum—which was recently named as an Underground Railroad site—to honor the life of the trailblazing civil rights leader. Celebrate the fallen icon’s legacy through Monday with a captivating tour, train rides, activities for little ones, and choir performances delivered by the Union Baptist Church. From 2-4 p.m. on January 16, Union Baptist’s Reverend Mark-Anthony Montgomery will give a presentation inspired by one of Dr. King’s most famous speeches. Find a full list of this weekend’s events here.
Jan. 17: Tune Into the Reginald F. Lewis Museum’s Virtual MLK Day
As you spend the day reflecting, log on to the Reginald F. Lewis Museum’s Facebook or Youtube pages to take in a virtual lineup of programming inspired by Dr. King. Listen to spoken word pieces by Dewmore Baltimore poets; a discussion between the museum’s own Dr. Izetta Autumn Mobley and civil rights historian Taylor Branch; and a musical performance by jazz saxophonist Benny Russell, trumpeter Brandon Woody, pianist Justin Taylor, drummer Jay Moody, and bass player Blake Meister. If you’re looking for family-friendly experiences, don’t miss an MLK Children’s Theatre read-aloud and singalong.
Jan. 17: Take Part in a Neighborhood Cleanup
In keeping with AmeriCorps’ nationwide Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, the Southwest Baltimore village of Violetville is organizing a neighborhood cleanup on Monday morning. From 9-11 a.m., join neighbors to collect litter and beautify the streets of the quaint, 500-household neighborhood.
Jan. 18: Catch a Keynote Speech
This Tuesday, tune in from wherever you are as Morgan State University President David K. Wilson remembers the late Reverend with a keynote at Purdue University. Plus, stay tuned for events and performances—including a joint concert by the MSU choir and members of Purdue’s Black Voices of Inspiration on Jan. 19—lasting all week.
Watch a Movie
Based on newly-unearthed files and damning footage, MLK/FBI explores the government’s dark history of stifling Black leaders through surveillance, propaganda, and contagious paranoia. If you’re up for a trip to Silver Spring, watch for free this Monday at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theater and Cultural Center.
Keep an Eye Out for This Powerful Poetry Reading
Kondwani Fidel believes “the only things we truly own in this world are our stories and our experiences.” And at The Walters Art Museum later this year (an MLK Day event originally set for this weekend has now been rescheduled,) the 28-year-old Baltimore poet, author, and Coppin State professor is set to pay a fitting tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with excerpts from his forthcoming EP.
Currently untitled, this labor of love is what Fidel calls “the embodiment of self-expression, while also trying to better understand and convey the complexities of Black American experiences as they relate to where I come from.” And when he debuts these new poems—alongside other local artists like Black Assets and APoetNamedNate—the East Baltimore native hopes that listeners are left understanding the importance of storytelling and free speech without fear.
“That is something that MLK embodied,” says Fidel. “Black, outspoken voices are protests within themselves, because historically, we never had the luxury to share our stories at this magnitude. Sharing your story is the first stepping stone to understanding your place and mission in this world.” Stay tuned for an official postponed date.