8 Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Chicago

On Monday, Jan. 18, we recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To honor Dr. King’s life, work, and legacy, here are eight ways to celebrate MLK Day from your home this year.

1. Join local artists and activists to discuss Chicago-based social movements

Photo courtesy of Paige Taul

The Hyde Park Art Center will host a free virtual MLK Day celebration Monday, Jan. 18 from 12-4 p.m. The event will include film screenings and presentations featuring Chicago artists and activists following in the footsteps of Dr. King. No pre-registration is required. The Zoom link is available at Hyde Park Art Center

2. Engage in an act of service by hosting a coat drive

One Warm Coat is looking for individuals, groups and businesses to collect coats for people in need through its Coat Drive Program. One Warm Coat provides the resources to register, promote and manage the drives, and partners with nonprofits across the country to ensure every coat is distributed. Making a financial contribution or collecting donations is another way to help. For more information and to register visit One Warm Coat

3. Attend a performance honoring the civil rights leader’s legacy

Photo courtesy of Alan Davis

Using dance, music, spoken word and excerpts from Dr. King’s speeches, the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago and Black Ensemble Theater will celebrate his life in their annual production. The free celebration will take place Monday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. View live at African American Arts Alliance of Chicago and Black Ensemble Theater

4. Participate in an educational workshop 

Photo courtesy of HEROS

In partnership with The Volunteer Center, Healing Everyday Racism in Our Schools will offer a virtual workshop Sunday, Jan. 17 focusing on King’s 1965 speech in Winnetka and local actions to create his “Beloved Community.” From 2-4 p.m. attendees can choose between five breakout rooms including Affordable Housing and Integrated Communities, Local Education, Hidden Stories: Researching Local History, Civic Engagement and Beginning Your Anti-Racism Journey. Register at HEROS.

5. Learn about Dr. King’s connection to Chicago

The Chicago History Museum will host their annual family-friendly celebration virtually this year on Monday, Jan. 18 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The event will discuss King’s activism in Chicago, including virtual tours of the places he frequented, virtual storytelling and hands-on history art. The event is free and the museum welcomes donations. To register, visit Chicago History Museum

6. Commemorate his life and activism through poetry 

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The Art Institute of Chicago will present a virtual performance featuring Rebirth Poetry Ensemble and the performance duo In the Spirit who will perform original spoken-word pieces and stories and respond to the exhibit “Bisa Butler: Portraits.” The performance will take place Monday, Jan. 18 from 5-6:15 p.m. Later in the week on Wednesday, Jan. 20, the institute will host a virtual talk, “(In)Justice” which will discuss the meanings of justice, resistance and faith. Register for these events and watch additional recorded programs at Art Institute of Chicago

7. Sing songs of peace and justice with the Old Town School of Folk Music

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Shanta Nurullah and Zahra Baker will lead children under 6 and their adults in singing, shaking and dancing to honor Martin Luther King Jr. This session will occur Monday, Jan. 18 from 10-10:30 a.m. From 1-2 p.m. and 7-8 p.m., Bill Brickey and surprise guests will lead songs, focusing on songs that were popular during the peak of the 1960s civil rights movement. To sign up, visit Old Town School of Folk Music

8. Provide PPE kits to seniors and decorate MLK Memorial Bridge

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My Block My Hood My City will honor Dr. King through a day of service, Monday, Jan. 18 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Volunteers are invited to pick up supplies at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. to deliver to seniors in need. For those unable to make deliveries, they can assist the Rosemoor Community Association in cleaning up the MLK gardens. M3 founder Jahmal Cole will speak at a press conference beginning at 10:30 a.m. After the conference, volunteers will decorate the bridge with red roses as the commemorative plaque is presented to the city. Learn more and register at My Block My Hood My City. 9901 S. Martin Luther King Dr., Chicago

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Aliyah Armstrong is an intern at Better with a passion for arts and entertainment reporting. A senior in Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, she is also minoring in Sociological Studies. Aliyah supports the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Black Youth Project 100, an organization that aims to create justice and freedom for all Black people.

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