ABOVE PHOTO: Martin Luther King Jr. Volunteer Day of Service
Philly celebrates the civil rights leader from January 15-18, 2021
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Every year, Philadelphia honors the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of giving back and — even this year — an extended weekend of in-person and virtual activities celebrate Dr. King across the city.
For 2021, the mission to pay tribute to King’s work continues alongside updated health and safety protocols from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia.
Volunteers for service opportunities can choose from in-person and virtual projects throughout the region during the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service taking place on Monday, January 18, 2020.
Elsewhere, Philadelphia museums, attractions and more hold special events, programming and workshops to celebrate King.
Below are top picks for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Philadelphia for 2021, along with an array of more events and activities to enjoy over the long weekend from January 15-18, 2020.
Note: Events in this article are arranged in chronological order by section. This article was last updated on January 8, 2021.
In-Person & Virtual Events for Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend
Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend at the Museum of the American Revolution
MLK Weekend Celebration from The African American Museum in Philadelphia
Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service
Martin Luther King Jr. Volunteer Day of Service in Wissahickon Valley Park
MLK Day Event and Volunteer Project from Uhuru
Dr. Martin Luther King Day from Eastern State Penitentiary
Martin Luther King, Jr., Tribute Concert with The Philadelphia Orchestra
01 Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend at the Museum of the American Revolution
Members of the Philly Jazz Project perform
January 16-18, 2021
The Museum of the American Revolution celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. with programming that connects the ideals of the Revolutionary War to King’s teachings. On January 16, museum guests can explore the Ona Judge Discovery Cart, a contactless feature that includes an original door handle from The President’s House in Philadelphia and other objects that tell the story of Judge, one of nine enslaved Africans to live and work at The President’s House under George Washington. Virtual events include an Ona Judge Walking Tour (Saturday) and the Finding Freedom digital interactive (all weekend), which tells the stories of enslaved people’s paths to freedom. On Monday, the Philadelphia Jazz Project presents We Shall: A Lyrical MLK Celebration, which viewers can watch on YouTube.
Where: Museum of the American Revolution, 101 S. 3rd Street
02 MLK Weekend Celebration from The African American Museum in Philadelphia
Profile photos of Nicole Fleetwood and Shuja Moore
January 16-18, 2021
Family-oriented programming, online screenings and more are part of The African American Museum in Philadelphia’s MLK Weekend Celebration. Three days of youth-centric programming include dramatic readings, workshops that focus on visions for the future and community support, and a “transcribe-a-thon” of written records from The Freedmen’s Bureau. Attendees can register in advance for each morning activity, as well as for the weekend’s screenings: Walkies, about Philadelphians’ experiences with the criminal justice system (Saturday); readings from Philadelphia Poet Laureate Trapeta Mayson and author Jonathan Escoffery (Sunday); and John Lewis: Good Trouble, an account of the late congressman’s legacy and civil rights activism.
Where: Virtual for 2021
03 Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service
Monday, January 18, 2021
What better way to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. than by lending a hand in a service project? Volunteers can partake in one of more than 100 in-person and virutal service projects during the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service. Girard College serves as the hub for the day’s projects as well as a COVID-19 testing site. Many of the projects this year are virtual, including career prep workshops, literacy skill-building and theater performances. New health and safety guidelines outline all the ways to follow the City of Philadelphia’s Safer at Home protocols while helping the community.
Where: Various locations, including Jewish Relief Agency Warehouse, 10980 Dutton Road
04 Martin Luther King Jr. Volunteer Day of Service in Wissahickon Valley Park
Monday, January 18, 2021 | 9 a.m.-noon
Friends of the Wissahickon volunteers should bring gardening gloves to Wissahickon Valley Park’s Day of Service event, where the task at hand is springtime prep. Masked, socially distant nature lovers can sign up to help clear invasive vegetation to make room for future planting. Note that volunteer slots are limited and advance registration is required. Registrants will receive an email the day before the clean-up with location information.
Where: Location TBA in Wissahickon Valley Park, Valley Green Road
05 MLK Day Event and Volunteer Project from Uhuru
Monday, January 18, 2021 | 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles — an organization dedicated to promoting Black economic self-reliance and fighting gentrification — commemorates the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service with a virtual program and a socially distant volunteer project. Screenings of historic films about Africans’ struggles for freedom and equity feature civil rights champions Dr. King and Malcolm X. (Register in advance for a link to the screening.) Masked in-person volunteers meet outside Uhuru at noon to distribute literature that promotes the organization’s works. Bonus: Volunteers are provided lunch.
Where: Virtual + Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles, 832 N. Broad Street
06 Dr. Martin Luther King Day from Eastern State Penitentiary
Monday, January 18, 2021 | 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tune in on Facebook or Zoom for a virtual presentation of Eastern State Penitentiary’s annual event. Students, educators, activists and community members read selections from Dr, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” with time between each reading for reflection, music and poetry. Six 30-minute time blocks, starting at 11 a.m. on Monday, January 18, 2021, make it easy for participants to listen to one or all of the readings.
Where: Virtual for 2021
07 Martin Luther King, Jr., Tribute Concert with The Philadelphia Orchestra
Monday, January 18, 2021 | 7 p.m.
A moving tribute from The Philadelphia Orchestra helps close out a weekend of reflection when music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads an evening of music and interviews honoring Dr. King’s legacy. Between performances of Lift Every Voice and Sing and Go Tell it on The Mountain — staged at Belmont Mansion’s Underground Railroad Museum, Harriett’s Bookshop and other Black cultural and community sites in Philadelphia — notable Philadelphias discuss how they’re continuing King’s legacy. Hear from Pa. Rep. Jordan Harris, Rev. Mark Tyler of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church and more.
Where: Virtual for 2021
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