Nearly 57 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, his message of compassion and connection feels more poignant than ever.
Here in Philly, more than 140,000 people are expected to volunteer for thousands of projects around the city and region.
Have the day off and want to get involved? Reach out to your local schools, houses of worship and civic associations to see if they need help; consult our do something guides for tips on how to get involved in your community; spend a day reading about Black history pioneers, launch a clean-up or book drive on your block; talk to your children about the ideas MLK inspired over the decades …
Ways to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2020
Hear a reading and talkback of Dr. King’s infamous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” and discuss its connection to civil rights and activism in the 21st century. Additional programming on Monday includes family-friendly arts and crafts, a musical performance and an opportunity for electronics recycling. January 18–20, 11:30am, 1:30pm and 3:30pm; January 20, 10am–4pm, free, Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Avenue.
Create care packages for Philadelphia families in need, enjoy arts projects, and honor Dr. King by listening to a read-aloud of Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin by Doreen Rappaport. Then, at 1pm, get an in-depth look at an exhibit on Fellowship Farm, now the Child Guidance Resource Center, and its historical connection to King’s education. Saturday, January 18, 10am–5pm, $2, African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street.
Experience musicians and vocalists, including the talented Damien Sneed, in its iteration of “We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.” The concert will combine King’s speeches with music from a range of genres and iconic artists, including Aretha Franklin and Duke Ellington. Friday, January, 17, 8pm, $29–$49, Annenberg Center, Zellerbach Theatre, 3680 Walnut Street.
Refugee assistance organization HIAS PA offers three ways to get involved at three different organizations: Volunteer to beautify a school or recreation center where many of the org’s clients learn and play. Or, if you’re more interested in policy, visit HIAS PA’s headquarters for a training session on standing up for local immigrant communities. Monday, January 20: 9:30am–1:30pm, Spruance Elementary, 6401 Horrocks Street; 10am–noon, Tarken Recreation Center, 6250 Frontenac Street; 10am–noon, HIAS PA office, 2100 Arch Street.
With nearly 2,000 projects and more than 140,000 volunteers, the Global Citizen-sponsored MLK Day of Service is one of the largest in the USA. While most volunteer spots are already filled, you can still head on over to Girard College to volunteer, donate money, tour job and wellness fairs, attend a civic engagement expo or jump around at the kids’ carnival. Monday, January 20, 8am–12:30pm, free, Signature Site at Girard College, 2101 S. College Avenue.
Learn about historical figures of African descent, like abolitionist James Forten and poet Phillis Wheatley, all weekend long at the Museum of the American Revolution. You can also enjoy “We Shall: A Lyrical Dr. King Celebration,” performed by Philadelphia Jazz Project, which draws inspiration from King’s speeches. January 18–19, 10am–6pm; January 20, 10am–5pm, $13-$21, Museum of the American Revolution, 101 S. 3rd Street.
Visit the National Constitution Center for discounted admission to various interactive theater, art and spoken-word programs, including a powerful performance of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Monday, January 20, 9:30am–5pm, $5, National Constitution Center, 525 Arch Street.
Participate in small group discussions and listen to panelists, such as Sterling Grimes, CPO of the Fellowship for Black Male Educators, and Sharif El-Mekki (pictured), founder of the Center for Black Educator Development, speak on equity and excellence in education at this MLK Town Hall. The event strives to preserve Dr. King’s legacy by including young people in the conversation around education. All proceeds go to the College for Teens program. Monday, January 20, 9:30am–11:30am, $10–$24.36, Philadelphia 201 Hotel, 201 N. 17th Street.
For Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, the Philadelphia Museum of Art hosts a day of to-dos focusing on the impact we each have on Philadelphia—a complement to its latest special exhibit “Designs for Different Futures.” Come and think about how you can shape our city’s future by participating in conversations, crafts and a teach-in. Monday, January 20, 10am–3pm, pay-what-you-wish, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Watch films about MLK, Malcolm X and the Civil Rights Movement in the morning, then spread awareness of Uhuru’s education services by putting up flyers around town. End the day with a volunteer pizza party! Monday, January 20, 10am–3pm, free, Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles, 832 N. Broad Street.