7 Metro Detroit Events to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2022

Remember the civil rights leader with Wayne State University, The Wright Museum, and more
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martin luther king jr. day - chris wilson - wayne state
Christopher Wilson, a director at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, is the keynote speaker for Wayne State University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. // Photograph courtesy of Wayne State University

Martin Luther King Jr Day is on Jan. 17, and institutions across metro Detroit are celebrating the late civil rights leader with a variety of special events. Here’s a look at what’s going on.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute 2022

Wayne State University’s annual tribute to King, held this year on Jan. 14, will feature a keynote address by Christopher Wilson. The WSU alumnus is director of experience design at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. He’s also the director of the museum’s African American History Program. Detroit native and former WDIV anchor Lauren M. Sanders will emcee the event. “As has been our tradition, Wayne State University once again proudly celebrates the struggles, the sacrifices, and the triumphs that mark the vibrant legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” says WSU President M. Roy Wilson in a press release. “This year’s theme, Looking Back to Look Ahead, will reflect on Dr. King’s teachings and how we live them today and into the future.” For more information, visit communityoutreach.wayne.edu.

MLK Day at The Wright

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit is hosting online and in-person events this year. On, Jan. 17, the museum will begin the day with a virtual keynote message from civil rights activist Andrew Young. Then at noon, the museum will host an in-person screening of a documentary about Young. There is no cost to attend, but those who are interested must register online in advance. Visitors are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. For more information, visit thewright.org/mlk.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Eastern Michigan University will virtually celebrate the life of King over four days. The events kickoff at 10 a.m. on Jan. 14 on the EMU Facebook page with performances and speeches related to the theme of this year’s MLK events: “Rising Together.” On Jan. 16, the school will host the first day of its MLK Academic Programs Conference and a performance and discussion with the CloseUp Theatre Troupe. The programming closes on Jan. 17 with the second day of the conference and the MLK President’s Luncheon fundraiser. The day will end with a keynote address from Justin Hansford, a Howard University School of Law professor and executive director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center. A limited number of in-person seats will be available for Hansford’s speech. Visit emich.edu for more information.

U-M Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium

The University of Michigan will broadcast a virtual Memorial Keynote Lecture on the morning of Jan. 17. The event will feature Mexican-American journalist Maria de Lourdes Hinojosa Ojeda, who is the anchor and executive producer of the show Latino USA on NPR, and Dr. Rashad Richey, a professor, lecturer, and political/social analyst who anchors Indisputable with Dr. Rashad Richey. The lecture will be moderated by Dr. Patricia Coleman-Burns, assistant professor emerita of nursing and affiliated faculty in the Department of Afro-American and African Studies at U-M. Various events will also be held on and around Martin Luther King Day Jr., including community service projects, exhibitions, and workshops. Visit oami.umich.edu for more information.

“A Day On, Not a Day Off” – Martin Luther King Jr. Ceremony & Freedom Walk

The cities of Royal Oak and Berkley are holding a joint Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. A virtual keynote and presentation will take place on each city’s Facebook page on the morning of Jan. 17. The event will include a keynote speech by Dr. Kim Martin, the diversity, equity, and inclusion coordinator for Royal Oak Schools, a Detroit Youth Choir performance, and more. A Freedom Walk is scheduled for later in the morning. The walk will kick off at Royal Oak Middle School. Prior to the walk, the event committee will also be collecting donations of toiletries, cleaning supplies, non-perishable foods, and other items for local organizations. For more information, visit facebook.com.

MLK, Jr. Day: Give Us The Ballot

During its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day event, the Detroit Historical Museum will give kids the opportunity to participate in a voter registration project in which they’ll learn about the importance of registering to vote. They’ll also get the chance to make their own mock voter registration cards and will be given Martin Luther King Jr. worksheets and coloring pages. The museum will also host guided tours of its Detroit 67 exhibit, performances, and a “Happy Birthday” sing-along complete with cupcakes. Admission to the museum and its events are free with online registration. For more information, visit detroithistorial.org.

Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Webinar

On Jan. 20, the University of Detroit Mercy will present a webinar with Alex Zamalin, who is an associate professor of political science and director of the African American Studies program at the school. Zamalin will be joined by a student panel to discuss King’s legacy. “It’s more than just reflecting on the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr., but also reflecting on how we live out the values daily,” says Dorothy Stewart, associate dean of students and chair of Detroit Mercy’s Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month planning team, in a press release. “We should not sit back and be complacent or comfortable because something is not impacting us directly, but constantly improve on working on inequities in society today.” Those interested in attending the public event must register in advance online. To register, visit udmercy-edu.zoom.

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