The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend is celebrated across the country and around the world. But in no place is the celebration of one of the world’s most beloved prophets and peacemakers more inclusive, versatile, and party-like than in his hometown of Atlanta. Even United States President Joseph R. Biden found his way to Atlanta for church service Sunday.

The Atlanta Voice editors and reporters moved across metro Atlanta in search of the many ways the city celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. King over the weekend. From music to musings, trivia to food and fellowship to Alvin Ailey dancers at halftime of a Hawks game, there were plenty of ways to celebrate. Here are some of our stories.

The Atlanta History Center hosted the Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony Monday, Jan. 16 celebrating the federal holiday and honoring the legacy of the Atlanta-born civil rights leader. Photo by Isaiah Singleton/The Atlanta Voice

The importance of learning about Black culture: Atlanta History Center hosts MLK day with exhibits, trivia

By Isaiah Singleton

The Atlanta History Center hosted the Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony Monday, Jan. 16 celebrating the federal holiday and honoring the legacy of the Atlanta-born civil rights leader.

Beginning at 10 a.m., the Atlanta History Center parking lot quickly filled causing people to park down the street and walk. Entering the AHC, guests could immediately feel the presence of MLK, his impact, and the rich history of events during that time.

The morning started off with a short video explaining the importance of MLK Day and why we celebrate him. This led guests to explore throughout the day and participate in various MLK Day themed activities.

Guests could participate in trivia, karaoke, walk through history exhibits, eat, and enjoy a vocal choir performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. It was great to see so many young Black people throughout the day enthusiastic either with their classmates or family enjoying exhibits and learning about their culture. Additionally, the Freedom Rider panel was interesting to listen to where guests heard stories from Freedom Riders Flonzie Brown-Wright, Charles Person, and Hank Thomas.

Mychelle Brady said she brings her daughter with her every year to celebrate MLK.

“I’m originally from Michigan, so back home, we have an African American museum and my daughter and I go every year,” she said. “It’s very important to learn about your culture and at a young age, it’s important to see our culture and visit different museums that pertain to Black culture. Seeing things like art, fashion, and the lifestyle, it’s important to expose your children and even myself throughout life.” Her daughter, Dakota Brady, 6, also said she feels “really excited” to be at the AHC and to be able to celebrate Black culture.

Atlanta natives Chelsea Odeh and Gwendolyn Johnson wanted to attend the event because they have never been and wanted to see what it was about.

“I came to see how Atlanta has changed because I’ve been here all my life,” Johnson said.

“They have the MLK day program, and I wanted to see what was going on today,” Odeh said. “It’s super important to know your history. Johnson said she is from here and seen it change a lot more than I have. I’ve seen Atlanta change drastically over the past five years and see where it’s going. It’s still the gateways to the South and it’s nice to see how it’s been growing and changing.”

The best part about the day was being reminded about how important Black culture is and why Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was such an influential civil rights leader.

Political leaders of the City of East Point hosted the fifth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at the Jefferson Park Recreation Center on Monday. Photo by Janelle Ward/The Atlanta Voice

East Point’s MLK Day of Service unites community for food, fellowship

By Janelle Ward

Political leaders of the City of East Point hosted the fifth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at the Jefferson Park Recreation Center on Monday.

Members of the community joined together on MLK Day to eat, mingle and reflect on King’s legacy.

According to Councilmember Sharon Shropshire, East Point’s leadership hosts the event each year to motivate their constituents to continuously serve those in need, while keeping Martin Luther King’s dream and spirit alive. This year’s day of service marked the first celebration to be held in person since the arrival of the pandemic.

City workers and members of various fraternities and sororities within the National Pan-hellenic Council joined the council members in the festivities.

Councilmember Myron B. Cook, presiding over Ward C of East Point, said in opening remarks that the history of Martin Luther King’s efforts, and his untimely demise, remain fresh on his mind even today. Cook was a student attending Morehouse College at the time of King’s assassination, and said that he remembers the day King’s funeral procession passed through the school’s campus.

“I know I don’t look like it, but on the day that Martin Luther King’s funeral procession marched on Morehouse’s campus, I was actually a senior at Morehouse that year,” Cook said. “And all I have to say is, it’s amazing how time can fly.”

Volunteers manned an assembly line where attendees could grab a hot meal consisting of fried fish, coleslaw, potato salad, and other classic southern staples. Organizers also set up a face painting booth for kids, and a DJ played R&B hits along with recordings of Dr. King’s most famed remarks.

While the event focuses heavily on feeding the community, East Point’s MLK Day of Service also prioritizes education on physical health and wellness. The Men of Intelligence Association, a local nonprofit consisting of professional Black men working to give back to resource-deficient communities, handed out information about physical fitness. Medical professionals were also on hand to check attendees’ vitals and administer COVID-19 vaccinations.

Shropshire, council member at-large of East Point’s Ward A, heads the organizing efforts each year, entailing the assistance of various local nonprofits and organizations to bring the event to fruition. She said events like this are important for Black communities to take advantage of because of existing systemic inequalities that can dampen the quality of life for those living inside them.

“In our communities, we don’t go to the doctor,” Shropshire said. “So, this gives them an opportunity to have their blood pressure checked, cholesterol – all of that stuff.”

Shropshire also said the purpose of MLK Day is often misconstrued across the Black community, with many treating it as a day of rest as opposed to a day of action. She said hosting events is also a way to educate local youth on the importance of King’s work in the community.

“We’re not teaching about Black history as we were taught,” Shropshire said. “So this is a day that we can let them know, ‘This is the reason why we do what we do.’”

All Saints Episcopal Church was the site of a jazz celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Saturday night.
Photo by Noah Washington/The Atlanta Voice

Music comes in many colors:

All Saints Episcopal Church holds jazz celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By Noah Washington

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day couldn’t be better celebrated than with the music of his time. Saturday, January 14, All Saints Episcopal Church hosted, “Sounds of Freedom: Celebrating The Legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The celebration was hosted by the Rev. Dr. Dwight Andrews, musical director and ordained priest, whose ordination date is January 15, in honor of the influence that Dr. King had on his life.

“I chose January 15th, as my ordination day in 1978, because King had been such a big influence on me as a kid, and adolescent,” Andrews told The Atlanta Voice. “By the time I finished seminary, it seemed like a natural point as to why I went into ministry in the first place, because of the great work of Dr. King and others.”

Andrews left the crowd in stitches throughout the night, against the backdrop of swinging jazz classics. Each song was performed better than the last, but the true magic was Andrews’ heartwarming interludes, which were filled with wisdom.

“Andy Barnett, one of the ministers at All Saints, is a great jazz musician, he, and I both collaborated and have known of each other’s interest in ministry and jazz, so it was natural that we would eventually do something together,” Andrews said. “It was really his idea, he curated the program, put it together, and found all the right musicians needed to pull this off.”

As the program continued, Andrews would periodically insert calls to action into the program. But even without the added testimony, the concert was an enjoyable festival of all things groovy and right. Band performers included:

The Rev.Dr.Andrew K. Barnett on the piano, Mike Beshara on the bass, Robert Boone on the drums, Marshall Keys on the saxophone and Lena Seikaly, the evening’s lead vocalist. The band laid down their best, the crowd was completely intoxicated from the sensuality of “Deep River” to the band’s unexpected and unlisted performance of the Duke Ellington classic, “Tell Me If It’s The Truth”.

Highlights of the night included the drum solo masterfully handled by Boone and Seikaly performing multiple scat routines, truly transforming herself from a vocalist into an instrumentalist in proper form.

Towards the end of the night, a beautiful benediction was delivered by the Rev. Nathasha Reid Rice, right before a sing-along with the band to the tune of, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me’ Round”. 

A worthy night to remember- this jazz concert was truly the way to begin the celebration of Dr. King’s life and legacy.

The annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day game has regularly sold out year after year. More than 18,000 fans attended Monday’s Hawks victory over the Miami Heat. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

About More than basketball

By Donnell Suggs

There’s no evidence that Dr. King was a basketball fan, but the annual Atlanta Hawks MLK Day game has been a staple in this city for years. Every year on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Hawks have the honor of being the city’s only professional team to host a game. And the Hawks take full advantage of that annual opportunity by hosting pregame panels, halftime shows and moments of reflection.

On Monday afternoon the Hawks hosted the Miami Heat and before the game held a panel presented by Chase, Investing in the Next Generation. The focus of the panel was financial literacy and financial health. JP Morgan Chase Vice President of community & business development Mathilda Lambert, one the panelist that afternoon, believes Dr. King “was very intentional about forward movement of people of color, so as we look at the work we are doing in the community, that vision aligns,” she said.

Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young was honored for his continued service to the community. Atlanta native and social justice leader Xernona Clayton was also honored midway through the first and second quarters for her work during the Civil Rights era. Ms. Clayton was in attendance and blew kisses to the crowd during the standing ovation she received.

At halftime performers from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed “Revelations.” Arguably the most famous piece from the world-renowned choreographer, Revelations debuted in 1960 and uses spirituals and song-sermons to tell the story of the African-American journey.

The Dr. King Day game is one of the most popular on the Hawks schedule. More than 18,000 fans were in attendance to see the Hawks defeat the Heat 121-113.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...