10 Metro Detroit Events to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2024

Remember the Civil Rights leader with Wayne State University, The Wright Museum, and more
Stock photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr Day is on Jan. 15, 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.

MLK Celebration: Let Freedom Ring

This public event celebrates the life of Dr. King by honoring several social justice stewards including Judge Greg Mathis and Big Sean, who will both received the Keep Hope Alive Award; Bishop John Drew Sheard, who will receive the Theological Leadership Award; and Maha Freij, the CEO of ACCESS, and Amy Nederlander, the co-founder of L!fe Leaders, who will both receive the Social Service Award. Harry Belafonte and Rev. Dr. Charles G. Adams, will also be recognized. In addition, there will be performances Errol Service Jr., The Cass Technical High School Choral Ensembles, and a Dr. Martin Luther King High School Dance Workshop. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313presents.com

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute 2024

Wayne State University’s annual tribute to King will feature a panel discussion on January 11, followed by a formal program on Jan. 12. The panel discussion begins at 5 p.m. and will explore Detroit’s role in the Civil Rights movement through music, art, religion, politics and the labor movement. It concludes with a conversation about voting rights and activism. The keynote speaker at the formal program, which starts at 10 a.m., is Santita Jackson, the daughter of Rev. Jesse Jackson. The political analyst, radio and TV host, and internationally recognized vocalist will speak of the lessons she learned as a child and how those lessons are still relevant today. Wayne State University Industry Innovation Center, 461 Burroughs St., Detroit; communityoutreach.wayne.edu.

MLK Day at The Wright

Celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with he Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit on Jan. 15. The day will begin with a prayer breakfast that features a program with a keynote speech from Jeanelle Austin, the executive director and community of the George Floyd Global Memorial. There will also be a screening of Selma, a scavenger hunt, an immersive virtual reality experience that explores Dr. King’s speeches, hands-on workshops with museum educators, and much more. You can even explore some of the museum’s exhibitions including Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design, And Still We Rise, and Being Seen. The museum is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. for the day. Tickets are $15 for adults. Kids 17 an under are free. The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit; thewright.org. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Eastern Michigan University will celebrate the life of Dr. King with an extended week of special events “Driven By The Dream.” The events kickoff on Jan. 15 with the MLK Jr. Walk to Freedom from MLK Statue to Student Center along with a student gallery opening, a President’s luncheon, and book signing with the Honorable Victoria Pratt, the Chief Judge in Newark Municipal Court in New Jersey. The event continues each day with special panel discussions and presentations each day through Jan. 19. It ends with a movie night and discussion. Various locations at Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti; emich.edu.

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

Michelle Alexander, a legal scholar, social justice advocate, columnist, and the best-selling author behind The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, hosts a keynote in honor of Dr. King. Special music guest BLKBOK will perform during the event. The event is free and open to the public. Hill Auditorium, 825 N. University Ave., Ann Arbor; oami.umich.edu.

“The Time Is Always Right To Do What Is Right” – MLK Service Day & Freedom Walk

The cities of Royal Oak, Clawson, and Berkley are holding a joint Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. Members of the community will gather at Royal Oak Middle School for a freedom walk that steps off at 10 a.m. Prior to the walk, the event committee will also be collecting donations of toiletries, home items, non-perishable foods, and other items for the Redford Brightmoor Initiative, Cass Community Social Services, Judson Center, Teen Clean Closet, and Royal Oak First United Methodist. After the walk, participants are invited to work on service projects, which includes making blankets, sorting donations, and making cards for first responders. Royal Oak Middle School, 709 N. Washington, Royal Oakromi.gov

21st Annual Detroit MLK Day Rally & March

Gather at St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Detroit at noon for an MLK Day march with a “For Jobs, Peace and Justice While Protecting Water, Climate, and Community” theme. Invited speakers this year include Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and UAW International President Shawn Fain. Co-chairs are Aurora Harris, a lecturer in African American studies and the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and Abayomi Azikiwe, the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. In addition to these guests, the event hosts speakers and artists from our area. St. Matthew’s & St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church, 8850 Woodward Ave., DetroitFacebook.com

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is offering free admission and parking, along with special programming in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The With Liberty and Justice for All exhibit, which explores the painful evolution of American Freedom, and the temporary Mandela: The Official Exhibition, which explores and celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela, will be open during the event. Ahead of MLK Day proper, the museum hosts the original play The Beginnings of the Boycott, musical performances with Rev. Robert Jones and Mahalia Jackson, a selfie station, and much more. The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn; thehenryford.org

20th Annual MLK Fellowship Breakfast

The Macomb County Ministerial Alliance hosts a breakfast to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King. In addition to breakfast, the event includes performances by liturgical dancer Tamilca McCombs and flautist Deblon Jackson, along with a keynote from Bishop Edgar Vann with special guest Pastor Kevin Lancaster, the Alliance’s president. Admission is $50. Penna’s of Sterling Heights, 38400 Van Dyke Ave., Sterling HeightsFacebook.com

Southfield MLK Peace Walk

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Task Force, Inc. hosts this 39th annual event in the first Michigan city to hold a Dr. King peace walk or march back in January of 1986. It all kicks off at 9 a.m. at Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield with the peace walk. Afterwards, at the Southfield Pavilion, participants will enjoy a Taste Fest. This year’s event is themed “Peace and Justice for the Next Generation.” Hope United Methodist Church, 26275 Northwestern Highway, Southfield, and Southfield Pavilion, 26000 Evergreen Road, Southfield; mlktaskforcemi.org

This post has been updated for 2024.