10 Ways to Celebrate MLK Day with Kids in LA

MLK Day in LA
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On Mon., Jan. 17, we celebrate the life and legacy of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. From activities at the California African American Museum, to L.A. Works and more, here’s how you can introduce your children to the civil rights leader and enhance their understanding of the ongoing fight for racial equality with these family-friendly programs. And if you’re looking for ways to give back to your community on the Martin Luther Kind Day of Service, we also have some family-friendly volunteer opportunities you can do right here in LA. Read on for all the details.

MLK Day in LA

In-Person MLK Day Events in Los Angeles

MLK Jr. Celebration: Erasing Racism
Gather in person to celebrate and honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. The event will be held at the Culver City Senior Center on the outdoor patio. Event details.

Celebrate Martin Luther Kind Jr. Day!
It will be worth the drive to Irvine to join the folks at Pretend City for their annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. Here, everyone can have an open conversation about the importance of diversity and respecting everyone’s differences. The whole family can take part in story time, music and movement and art projects that include self-portraits and the peace dove to keep up the discussion of kindness and respect. Event details.


National Parks Fee Free Day
Another great way is to get outside with the family and visit one of our many majestic National Parks. And as an extra incentive, the National Park services open its doors for free on MLK Day. These free days can save $25 to $30 per vehicle at 118 of the more than 400 national parks across the nation, including Joshua Tree, Yosemite and Death Valley parks. Dr. King’s dream included inclusion for all. We think honoring these protected sites that exist for all is a great way to honor his memory. Event details.

Click here to learn more about the history of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from the National Park Service and the pursuit of civil rights in America. Click here to find a local NPS volunteer activity.

10th Annual MLK Day New Clothing Collection & Community Breakfast
Lots of fun to be had at this year’s big and delicious community breakfast (food will be individually wrapped). Expect entertainment from the Blue Breeze Band, lots of fun arts & craft projectsto benefit local nonprofits, plus, a Big Sunday MLK Day Marketplace, featuring all kinds of wonderful items for purchase and spotlighting minority-owned businesses. This year, to be COVID-safe, we’re only accepting NEW clothes. And get this: We’ll be putting together a full 2,022 winter clothing kits for all kinds of nice folks who are struggling. Please: NO USED clothes. Event details.

Virtual MLK Events around Los Angeles

L.A. Works’ MLK Day of Service
L.A. Works will continue our longstanding tradition of organizing Angelenos in service and activism (both virtually and in-person) to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Join your fellow Angelenos at one or more of the following projects at this event designed to build upon the anti-racism movement. Activities include: Virtual March on Washington in Minecraft: Take a tour through the fully recreated National Mall in Minecraft and interact with civil rights leaders who paved the way and are continuing the fight for Dr. King’s dream of a just and equitable society for all. If you’re looking to make a difference in-person, join L.A. Works school beautification project on Jan. 17 when hundreds of volunteers will roll up their sleeves and paint, plant, landscape and build as they work together to revitalize a school in South LA. Event details.

Westside Coalition’s MLK Day Celebration
There are two celebrations being hosted by the Westside Coalition: On Jan. 15, there’s the free annual MLK Holiday Concert, featuring the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra (advance reservations required). And there will also be an online event on Jan. 17—the 37th annual celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will showcase music by the Linda Alvarez Trio and spoken word by Get Lit: Words Ignite, who will also receive a Community Light Award. Education awards will be presented to local students and a Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to longtime community activist, LaVerne Ross. Event details.


CAAM has moved its in-person events online due to the COVID surge. They are offering two events: The King Study Group and a musical performance by ICYOLA. Click the link below to RVSP to these free events. The Museum remains open during regular hours.
Participate in this community reading and discussion about King’s 1967 speech, “A Christmas Sermon on Peace.” 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. Event details.
Members of the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (ICYOLA), perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and a medley of classic spirituals and original compositions. Noon. Event details.

Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University
While they’ve yet to announce any events this year, the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University has a robust online children’s section where you and your kids can explore the King Papers Project documents, listen to Dr. King’s speeches and learning more about Dr. King and the African American Freedom Struggle. They also provide a list of their favorite children’s literature. Event details.

Volunteer Opportunities in Los Angeles

Assemble Welcome Home & Hygiene Kits for Step Up
Help Santa Monica-based Step Up create these kits to serve those who are suffering from mental health issues and recovering from homelessness. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could even start up your own donation drive, to collect everything you’ll need to assemble multiple kits. Check out Step Up’s volunteer page to learn more.

Click here for more ways to volunteer with kids in LA.

featured image: iStock

—Andie Huber


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