Since it was first observed nationwide in January of 1986, the holiday commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has served as a reminder of his legacy to the causes of civil rights, nonviolent opposition and community service. Along with becoming a volunteer in NYC to help honor Dr. King's memory, there are plenty of events to check out on the day itself over the weekend, including live-music tributes, museum exhibits, readings and more. Don't miss out on these events, along with other great things to do this winter.
When is Martin Luther King Day?
Martin Luther King Day is Monday, January 18, 2016.
Martin Luther King Day events in NYC
Acclaimed activist and educator Dr. Cornel West is the keynote speaker at BAM’s yearly celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Following the speech are performances by the New York Fellowship Mass Choir and Sandra St. Victor & Oya’s Daughter, as well as the art exhibition “Picture the Dream” by NYCHA Atlantic Terminal Community Center students and a 1pm screening of the film The Central Park Five, about five young black and latino men who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman, directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon.Read more
Learn about New York’s links to the civil-rights movement on a special edition of Big Onion’s Historic Harlem Walking Tour. Notable stops along the two-hour trek include the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; the NYC headquarters of the NAACP; and the Harlem Hospital Center, where the reverend was treated in 1958 after being stabbed with a letter opener in a bookstore.Read more
Crown Heights teen group the Berean Community Drumline celebrates African-American culture and Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy with the joy of music.Read more
Martin Luther King Day events over the weekend
WNYC and Apollo Theater celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. with a panel discussion about his legacy, tributes to other civil rights activists, including Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee, and a musical performance by Alyson Williams and Refining Faith, all hosted by WNYC’s Brian Lehrer and MSNBC's Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry. R.S.V.P. for guaranteed admittance.Read more
Other things to do for MLK Day
This is the artist's first solo show since her blockbuster public-art project at the old Dominos Sugar refinery in Williamsburg. On view are studies for the centerpiece, a massive sphinx, as well as the actual retinue of boys made of molasses that accompanied it. The creature's gigantic front paw is also included, along with drawings made during the Williamsburg installation that reflect upon the massive audience response to the piece. A large watercolor "interpretation" of J.M.W. Turner’s The Slave Ship from 1840 wraps up the proceedings.Read more
Formed in 1986, the Harlem Gospel Choir has an impressive crossover résumé, having worked with U2 (on Rattle and Hum), Diana Ross and Jimmy Cliff. The group’s performances are exuberant, to say the least, as you'd expect from its slogan: "Get your dose of the Holy Ghost."Read more
Do we dare watch Ava DuVernay’s civil-rights drama as a mere piece of historical re-creation (expert though it is), and not as a newscast of what’s happening right now? There’s nothing “finished” about the issue of American racism and fittingly, Selma, unlike so many great-man biopics, lures us into a crucible of unsettled arguments and shifting strategies as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s landmark 1965 Alabama march becomes a reality—at a terrible cost. The film plays like a better episode of Mad Men, pitch-perfect in its details yet fully lived-in: a universe of rolled-up shirt sleeves, sweat-laden brows and screams that don’t sound canned. Meticulously researched and elegantly scripted by debuting screenwriter Paul Webb, Selma toggles between moments big and small, though everything feels necessary.Read more
When Studio Museum opened in 1968, it was the first black fine-arts museum in the country, and it remains the place to go for historical insight into African-American art and the art of the African diaspora. Under the leadership of director Lowery Sims (formerly at the Met) and chief curator Thelma Golden (formerly of the Whitney), this neighborhood favorite has evolved into the city’s most exciting showcase for contemporary African-American artists.Read more