There are numerous events that honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on MLK Day  – January 15, 2018 – and throughout the rest of the month right here in West Michigan. Dr. King was a social activist and led the Civil Rights movement in the United States. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in America. This year’s celebration is particularly poignant as it marks the 55th anniversary of the March on Washington and the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.

Dr. King’s legacy is surely worth honoring, and here is a list below if you are looking for something special to do to celebrate.

Performance - “I DREAM”

Monday, January 15 at 7:30PM at Fountain Street Church

Celebrate, reflect, and be inspired by the works of Dr. King with a musical performance at Fountain Street Church. “I DREAM looks at the man behind the legend of Dr. King. This performance focuses on the last 36 hours of his life when he visits Memphis, Tennessee, and includes flashbacks to poignant times that we can remember; like his I DREAM speech,” says Ashley Roberts, Marketing Director of Opera Grand Rapids. The musical number will fuse opera with the soulful genres of blues, jazz, and gospel. The performance is written by composer Douglas Tappin, who was inspired by his research about Dr. King and the numerous interviews he had with people who knew him and helped advocate alongside him. “The opera really showcases a personal look at who Dr. King is and those who helped make his work possible like Coretta, Ralph, and Hosea,” Roberts says.

Composer Douglas Tappin, who wrote I DREAM after researching Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Opera Grand Rapids


The performance will culminate the 32nd Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Community Celebration which is hosted in collaboration with Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Davenport University, and Opera Grand Rapids. “We’re excited to collaborate with Opera Grand Rapids for the first time ever this year. ‘I DREAM’ will be a special touch for the West Michigan community,” says Bobby J. Springer, Director of Pathways to College at Grand Valley State University and chair of the event’s planning team. “Not many people get to go to the opera, so this is a great way to learn how to keep Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of justice and peace alive while experiencing something unique at no cost.”

There will be an MLK video presentation as well as an induction to the Dream Scholarship Awards prior to the musical performance. The event will also feature another special guest – keynote speaker April Reign, creator of the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The 32nd Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Community Celebration begins at 6PM.

This event is free to the public.

Lecture – Social Media: Pursuing Justice in the Digital Age

Monday, January 15 from 9:30-10:30AM at Grand Rapids Community College and at 6PM at Fountain Street Church.

Also part of the 32nd Annual MLK Day Community Celebration will be a special presentation by April Reign, a media activist, attorney, and writer. Reign, named one of the Top 15 accounts on #BlackTwitter by the National Journal, is one of social media’s most influential voices on race, politics, and pop culture. Her presentation will tie in Dr. King’s work to digital media and how to take a stand for justice.

This event is free to the public.

The Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives will feature a photo exhibit of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids


Exhibit – Martin the Early Years at the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives (GRAAMA)

January 10 - February 3

Learn about Dr. King in a special way through a photo exhibit at the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives (GRAAMA). The museum will display a series of images that chronicle the early life of MLK and will be open from 12PM-5PM on Monday, January 15.

MLK Celebration Hosted by Area Colleges

Reflect on Dr. King by attending a presentation or concert from a local university. Here are some free events that honor MLK’s legacy. All celebrations are open to the public.

MLK Community Choir Performance – Aquinas College

January 14 from 6-8PM at New Hope Baptist Church

MLK Celebration with Kenneth Russell – Cornerstone University

January 22 at 10AM at Christ Chapel

The historic Fountain Street Church will be home to the I DREAM performance.

Photo Credit: Experience Grand Rapids


Looking for more ways to honor and celebrate historical events and sites in Grand Rapids? Visit the Experience Grand Rapids Historic pages for more ideas.

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