Martin Luther King Day will be observed this Monday, January 15th, 2024.
Here are a few ways you and your kids can observe the holiday together around Milwaukee.
1. Dr Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration
This annual birthday celebration has been a Milwaukee tradition for more than 30 years. Since 1984, Milwaukee has stood alongside Atlanta as one of the only cities in the country to host an annual celebration in honor of Dr. King’s birthday.
The free event will be held in person at the Marcus Performing Arts Center on Monday, January 15th at 4:00 p.m.
It will highlight this year’s youth contest winners as well as feature remarks from elected officials; performances from Rufus King International High School Varsity Drumline, Steffon Dixon, Xegon UniVerSoulist, and Antoine Reynolds and The Sound; and a special presentation of the inaugural Rev. Joseph Ellwanger Social Justice Award.
The Celebration activities will conclude with a free gospel concert featuring Antoine Reynolds with Anthony McGahee & Praise Motivated.
This year’s theme, “What Affects One…Affects All,” was inspired by Dr. King’s words in his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which was written in April 1963 as he was imprisoned for leading non-violent protests:
“I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
The Marcus Center is located at 929 N. Water Street, Milwaukee, WI, 53202. Parking for the event will be free and is available in the attached parking structure on State Street.
2. Kids Impact Community’s MLK Day of Service 2024
January 15th from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Congregation Shalom (7630 N Santa Monica Blvd, Milwaukee, WI 53217)
Celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with an all-ages, family-friendly morning of learning and service.
There will be a special guest speaker from Mr. Bob’s Under the Bridge for story time, music, movement, and various on-site service projects, including packing on-the-go winter hygiene kits and on-the-go breakfast bags for neighbors struggling with housing insecurity.
Junior Leaders wanted! There is also a leadership opportunity for kids ages 9-12 to help with set-up the day before and assist attendees at a variety of project stations the day of the event.
3. Dr. Martin Luther King Community Center event
Monday, January 15th at noon
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in King Park, 1531 W. Vliet St., Milwaukee
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center & Bronzeville Arts Ensemble present: ‘Words Seldom Spoken: The Lesser-Known Speeches of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’
This celebration of Dr. King will feature music, dance, and spoken word performances from local talent. The program will begin at 12:00 p.m., while an open house will commence at 1:30 p.m.
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley plans to attend the celebration, where he will honor three local women who displayed life-saving heroics at the community center in December.
4. Meet the Watson Family at the Milwaukee Public Museum
Stop by the Streets of Old Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Public Museum and learn about the Watson family, who played a vital role in establish Milwaukee’s black community.
Explore their family history through images and objects that illustrate this vibrant era in the city’s black heritage. Free with admission.
5. Service Projects at Bay Shore Lutheran Church
Monday, January 15th at noon
1200 E Hampton Rd in Whitefish Bay
Bay Shore Lutheran Church, located at 1200 E. Hampton Rd in Whitefish Bay, will honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with its 3rd annual service event at the church from 10 a.m. – Noon on Monday, January 15th.
The public is invited to sign up here in advance for volunteer slots and join Bay Shore members in serving the community through the following volunteer activities:
- Assembly of 500 sandwiches to be distributed to homeless individuals throughout the Milwaukee community.
- Assembly of 50 personal care kits to be distributed to homeless individuals through the Street Angels, a mobile outreach program that assists our neighborswithout homes in Milwaukee County.
- Writing letters of thanks and encouragement to veterans being treated at the Clement J Zablocki Veterans Medical Center, a health, support, and facility service to veterans in southeastern and east central Wisconsin.
- Creating and distributing Valentine’s Day cards to individuals presently staying at Crisis Resource Center, a community-based alternative to an emergency room or inpatient hospitalization for people suffering a mental health emergency and The Milwaukee Women’s Center, a mental health/dual diagnosis program serving women, including pregnant women, who are struggling with substance use disorder.
- Collecting mittens and hats which will be donated to local Street Life, an outreach organization for Milwaukee’s homeless.
Community members are also invited to stop by the church on Monday, January 15 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. to participate in letter writing and card signing as well as drop off mitten and hat donations.
6. MLK Dream Classic
This thrilling event, set for Monday, January 15th at the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Kern Center, features six dynamic Milwaukee City Conference boys basketball teams. The lineup includes:
- Riverside vs. Washington at 1:00 pm
- Rufus King vs. Audubon at 2:30 pm
- St. Thomas More vs. Milwaukee Academy of Science at 4:00 pm
- Hamilton vs. Golda Meir at 5:30 pm
Experience the energy and talent of local student-athletes as they showcase not just their skills on the court, but also their positive impact within the community.
For game tickets and more details, visit the Hometown Ticketing website. Don’t miss out on this exciting tribute to MLK’s enduring influence through the spirited world of high school basketball!
Talking to kids about Martin Luther King Jr.
Recognizing a federal holiday affords the perfect opportunity to talk with kids about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy. Depending on your child’s age, you can talk with them about interesting factual information, or delve deeper into topics surrouding racism.
National Geographic has put together 10 interesting facts about Dr. King that you can use as a springboard for a discussion.
And what better way to commemorate this important day than by actually watching Dr. King’s historic speeches?
What other ideas do you have for celebrating Martin Luther King Day with your kids?
Calie Herbst, Editor-in-Chief of Milwaukee With Kids, has spent over a decade combining her experiences as a parent of three to create a hub for Milwaukee’s family adventures.
Her decade-long teaching career in Milwaukee Public Schools and academic background, including a Master’s in Teaching from Marquette University and dual B.A.s in Sociology and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, fuel her passion for inclusive and engaging family content.
Calie is also a recognized voice in local media, contributing to WISN Channel 12 News, WTMJ Wisconsin Morning News, Fox 6’s Real Milwaukee, and B93.3.