The annual observance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday arrives on the cusp of a historical changing of guards, just a mere two days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. 

The annual holiday comes at a time when the current state of America, following the recent breach of the US Capitol building by supporters of outgoing President Donald J. Trump, dissatisfied with the results of a Presidential election that saw record-breaking turnout from various underrepresented communities, is probably best described as being in limbo.

Though King’s actual birthday is today, this year, the federal holiday for the man whose nonviolent approach to political unrest and Civil Rights activism would change the course of this nation and beyond will be observed on Monday, Jan. 18.

Over the years, this time of year has been particularly special for Atlanta — King’s hometown and final resting place, as well as the site of a historical landmark, The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change — organizers typically commission a parade and march in the icon’s honor. The National Park Service opens its sites to accommodate free admission for everyone.

Throughout the city, even more landmarks have been maintained to honor his influence, including the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site, where his remains are held, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, his undergraduate alma mater Morehouse College, the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he preached, as well as his birth and family homes. 

It is because of King’s influence that people across America, and people around the world, were able to stand up in disapproval of the systematic racism that has plagued the United States for over 200 years.

And that hunger for change created a domino effect that elected Kamala Harris as the first Black vice president. It turned Georgia from red to blue and delivered Warnock to the Senate. There were many people and organizations at work that helped to create these historic moments and improve America, but none of it would have been possible without King’s influence.

Last year, the world lost Civil Rights leaders Rev. C.T. Vivian, Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, and U.S. Senator John Lewis, men who worked closely with King and continued to spread his influence to make the world a better place until they drew their last breath. 

While the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol building brought forth powerful memories of Trump supporters scaling its walls and stampeding its chambers like wild animals, it still by far pales in comparison to what took place 57-years-ago, when King and other organizers peacefully led more than 205,000 people in the 1963 March on Washington in front of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his historic “I Have A Dream” speech.

That event led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and later sexual orientation and gender identity.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, which has limited what Americans are able to do to honor King, his life and legacy will still be celebrated in Atlanta. 

A number of Atlanta-based organizations, both private and non-profit institutions, including the King Center, which is led by King’s youngest daughter, Dr. Bernice King, have announced a number of virtual events to be hosted in his honor.


The King Center

In celebration of the Martin Luther King Dr. Holiday, The King Center is hosting a week of events. On Monday and Tuesday, the center hosted four virtual sessions on understanding and applying nonviolence tactics today for societal, cultural and personal transformation.  

On yesterday, the center hosted its two-day Beloved Community Global Summit, which concludes this evening. A virtual event in partnership with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and The Carter Center, the summit will feature Dr. Bernice King, and Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative as its keynote speakers. 

Additionally, the center will virtually host its 2021 King Holiday Observance Beloved Community Awards virtually on tomorrow, honoring recording and philanthropist Lady Gaga with the Yolanda Denise King  “Higher Ground” Award. The annual gala, which will feature an appearance from Porsha Williams, will also feature virtual musical performances from Marsha Ambrosius, Chrisette Michele, Carl Thomas and more.

The King Center will culminate its 2021 King Holiday Observance with the Beloved Community Commemorative Service featuring the Bishop TD Jakes on Jan. 18.


Morehouse College

To celebrate its esteemed alumni the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Morehouse College will host its virtual “King 2021: Remembering His Life and Legacy” on Jan. 21-29, which includes the Crown Forum featuring Dr. Lewis V. Baldwin, professor emeritus of Religious Studies at Vanderbilt University.

Also, a lecture and conversion series that will include Dr. William J. Barber II and the Rev. Liz Theharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign, and Morehouse alumni the Rev. Otis Moss III, the pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois. Additionally, the college will virtually hold its Human Rights Film Festival, with film screenings of “Otis’ Dream” and “Breaking the Silence.” 


Atlanta History Center

Since 2017, Atlanta History Center has commemorated the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by offering free admission to the public and serving up a variety of educational programs that explore his legacy. This year, the Atlanta History Center will look back on past celebrations and sharing related resources that can be explored safely from home—including a special Author Talk on Jan. 18, featuring authors Stephen Kendrick and Paul Kendrick with Atlanta Student Movement leaders Charles Black and the Rev. Otis Moss.


The Children’s Museum of Atlanta

Join Children’s Museum of Atlanta on Jan. 18, in collaboration with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, as it explores the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Stage, at the Science Bar, and in its Creativity Café with the theme “Dreams for a Better World.” 

Learn about Dr. King’s life and his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on stage, then commit to carrying on his legacy through activities in our Creativity Café.


Woodruff Arts Center

The Palefsky Collision Project will hold a virtual staged reading to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other Civil Rights activists on Jan. 18 at the Woodruff Art Center’s Riche Theather.   


Henry County NAACP

The 2021 Henry County NAACP MLK Celebration will incorporate a virtual MLK Prayer Experience on, Jan. 16, and its Annual Freedom March Parade on Monday, Jan. 18, which takes place at the Henry County Performing Art Center. 


Stone Mountain Park

The park is hosting its MLK Day 5k for walkers and runners. Registration is $30-$35.

Warnock has served as senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood just west of downtown Atlanta. (Photo: CNN Newswire)

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