“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Civil activist. American Baptist minister. A leader and spokesperson that changed the way the United States – and the world – looked at the basic civil rights that every person deserves. Martin Luther King Jr. left a legacy that we continue to celebrate to this day. Here are some ways you can reflect and celebrate MLK Jr. day in Washington, DC.
Visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
- Address: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial – 1964 Independence Ave SW, West Potomac Park
The statue of Martin Luther King Jr. stands as a memorial to the minister and civil activist that contributed to the change of the course of our nation forever. You’ll find the memorial etched with fifteen of Dr. King’s most powerful words. It’s a wonderful place to spend time on the day dedicated to him and reflect on his actions.
While you’re there, take a quick walk to the Lincoln Memorial, on the steps of which MLK Jr. gave his famed “I Have a Dream” speech. You’ll find the very spot he stood in when addressing over 250,000 people packed into the National mall eighteen steps from the top of the memorial.
Keep an eye out for the annual early morning wreath-laying service conducted at the memorial to pay tribute to MLK Jr. and his vision for the country.
Take Part in the annual Peace Walk Event and Parade
- Address: Frederick Douglas Bridge
The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk Parade in Washington, DC has been around for over 50 years. It was established in 1968 by the DC City Council as a way of promoting Dr. King’s legacy.
The parade is held on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Milwaukee Place and is usually filled with representatives from different communities, musical performances by local and national artists and bands, dancers, entertainers, and members of multiple civil rights organizations.
Whether you choose to join the parade or watch from the sidelines, you’ll be witnessing the past as well as history in the making.
Distribute hot meals with Islamic Relief USA
- Address: 2100 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE, Washington, DC 20020
- Dates: MLK Jr. Day at 11 AM
Islamic Relief USA has spent the last 27 years organizing and executing the MLK Day of Service as a way of encouraging Americans to get involved with the communities while celebrating the life of the civil rights leader.
Volunteers can spend the day distributing necessities such as hygiene and warming kits as well as groceries and hot meals. Know that IRUSA conducts its MLK Day of Service every year in several states across the United States.
Go to the Washington National Cathedral for their annual MLK Day Service
- Address: Washington National Cathedral – 3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016
The Washington National Cathedral hosts its annual MLK Day Service to honor Dr. King through a special service and an array of presentations and performances.
Come ready for discussions, musical performances, poetry readings, and so much more. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the service may be held in person or online so keep an eye out for more details on their website.
Honor the Great Writer at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
- Address: 901 G St. NW, Washington, DC 20001
Established in 1972, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is a sleek glass and brick structure designed by famed German-American architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the library takes up an entire city block and reopened in 2020 after a three-and-a-half-year renovation.
Inside, you’ll find a dance studio, a recording studio, a massive indoor slide, and even a rooftop terrace. They have a constant array of special events and speakers throughout the year, including on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in honor of the civil rights leader the library is named after.
Keep an eye out for the stunning murals of MLK Jr. found in the library’s lobby!
Attend the ‘Let Freedom Ring’ concert at the Kennedy Center
- Address: 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts partners with Georgetown University every year for their “Let Freedom Ring” concert. Though ticketed, admission to the event is free; tickets can be obtained in front of the Concert Hall on the day of the event.
There is a special award recipient of the Dream Award each year. You’ll also see performances by the Let Freedom Ring Choir as well as several other special guests. Past events have included appearances by music producer Nolan Williams, Jr. and singer, songwriter, and activist Chaka Khan.
FUTURES We Dream Family Day
- Address: Smithsonian Arts + Industries Building – 900 Jefferson Drive SW, Washington, DC 20560
- Dates: Sunday before MLK Jr. Day, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM EST
The Smithsonian Arts + Industries Building invites you and your family to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of activities that promote the late civil rights leader’s hopes and beliefs.
There will be family-friendly guided tours that explore social justice, workshops on Dr. King’s speeches, and lots of hands-on activities for young ones. Admission is free.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the “I Have a Dream” Speech Live Stream
- Dates: MLK Jr. Day, 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM EST
Despite being one of Dr. King’s most famous speeches, few people can say that they’ve listened to it in its entirety. Let this Martin Luther King Jr. Day be your chance as you grasp the opportunity as the 17-minute-long speech will be live streamed by the Washington DC History & Culture Society.
You’ll be witnessing an iconic moment in the civil rights movement and are then invited to join a discussion with fellow participants.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Address: 1400 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20560
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is one of my favorite places to spend the day. A part of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum is open to the public with free timed-entry passes.
They are currently displaying the original 1963 “I Have a Dream Speech” by Dr. Martin Luther King so it’s the perfect time to visit and explore there for a day.