Since it was first observed in 1986, Martin Luther King Jr. Day has become a day to not only honor the iconic U.S. civil rights leader but also an occasion for nationwide community service and action dedicated to the causes of civil rights and social justice. A variety of events are planned across the country on Monday, from commemorative services to marches and rallies.
In Washington, several community organizations will come out for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk and Parade, which is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. The 1-mile march is set to begin in front of the offices of the United Black Fund on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Anacostia. The National Cathedral is also hosting a tribute to King, with music, poetry and dance performances scheduled in the afternoon.
In King’s hometown of Atlanta, a commemorative service will be held at the Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizon Sanctuary, at which the first female president of Alabama State University, Gwendolyn E. Boyd, will be a keynote speaker. King’s daughter, Bernice King, called the event the “flagship” religious service marking the national holiday. A rally and march is also planned in the city later in the afternoon.
With issues of racial justice more prominent than ever across the country, many are also using the day as an opportunity to protest ongoing systemic inequality and discrimination. The Black Lives Matter protests that have been fueled by the recent police killings of unarmed African American men will make an appearance in a number of cities, including Philadelphia, where a protest is expected to draw 10,000 people. Organizers are focusing the demonstration on pushing for an end to “stop and frisk” police tactics, which are seen as disproportionately targeting communities of color.
A similar protest is being planned in Minneapolis to address what an organizer called a “policing crisis” that is being ignored by politicians. More than 2,100 people have said they will attend the 4-mile march, though it's unclear whether city officials have authorized the demonstration.