12 Metro Detroit Events to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2023

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. 16, 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

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. hosts this public event that honors the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Six local people who have “shined the light on humanity and expound the life of Dr. King” will be honored during the event. There will also be live entertainment including a performance by the Grammy-award winning artist, Howard Hewett, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Youth Ensembles, and the Dr. Martin Luther King High School Dance Workshop. Plus, a message from Pastor Solomon Kinloch of Triumph Church. The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. For more information, visit 313presents.com

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute 2023

Wayne State University’s annual tribute to King will feature a panel discussion on January 12, followed by the formal program on Jan. 13. The panel discussion begins at 5 p.m. and will explore how an economy that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive gives everyone access to resources and opportunities to thrive. The keynote speaker at the formal program, which starts at 10 a.m., is Randy D. Williams, the founder and president of the largest Black-owned watch company, Talley & Twine. He will speak to the message of connecting social justice to economic freedom that Dr. King embraced. For more information, visit 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. 16. The day will begin with a buffet prayer breakfast that features an invocation from Rev. Dr. JoAnn Watson from West Side Unity Church and a keynote from Dr. Melba Joyce Boyd. Educational programming that includes poetry work led by poet Tawana Petty and interactive workshops on Dr. King’s march in Memphis, current issues, and the dreams of the participants follows. There will also be a screening of Who We Are: A Chronicle on Racism in America as well as a collection of lectures featuring speakers chosen by the President of the museum. For more information, visit thewright.org.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

Eastern Michigan University will virtually celebrate the life of King over four days. The events kickoff on Jan. 13 as members of the university community perform pieces reflecting the theme “Remembering the Dream” as well as a panel discussion on the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a talk with the EMU Forensics team. On Jan. 14, there will be a screening and discussion on the movie Till, which was inspired by the real-life lynching of Emmett Till in 1955. Virtual academic programs that aim to better inform the understanding of the legacy of Dr. King follows on Jan. 15. More academic programs will be held both online and in-person on Jan. 16. The MLK President’s Luncheon and Keynote Address with Dr. Sampson Davis rounds out the event. Visit emich.edu for more information.

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

Start honoring Dr. King on Jan. 13 with a colloquium by guest speaker Jarrett Hill. During this lecture, Hill will discuss how the language Dr. King used influenced the Civil Rights movement, and how the Black church has influenced Black culture. A Q&A session will follow. Even more events happen on MLK Day proper. At 8:30 a.m. K-12 students are invited to commemorate the life of Dr. King with activities, workshops, and performance. A 10 a.m. keynote lecture with Dr. Aletha Maybank, Edward Buckles, Jalen Rose, and moderator Dr. Earl Lewis will explore Dr. King’s activism after 1964. Even more events including a carillon recital, masterclasses, lectures, webinars, and more run through Feb. 10. Visit oami.umich.edu for more information.

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

The cities of Royal Oak and Berkley are holding a joint Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. Members of the community will gather at Berkley High School for a freedom walk that steps off at 9:30 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, 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. For more information, visit romi.gov

Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Webinar

On Jan. 20, the University of Detroit Mercy will present a panelist discussion featuring Darnetta Banks, a neighborhood engagement manager for Brilliant Detroit and the president of Prairie Street Black Club; Sr. Hellen Marie Burns, RSM, a Detroit Mercy’s Board of Trustees member; Michael Carter, a member of Detroit Mercy’s Board of Trustees member and managing partner of Pinnacle Construction Partners; San Pitera, the dean of School of Architecture and Development at Detroit Mercy; Kyndal Wofford, the president of the Black Student Union; and Zach Cotton, the vice president of the the Black Student Union. On Jan. 25, Detroit Mercy’s Black Student Union will host a fashion show that showcases clothing made by Detroit designers. There are even more events in February to celebrate Black History Month, too. For more information, visit udmercy.edu

20th Annual Detroit MLK Day Rally & March

Gather at St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Detroit at noon for an MLK Day march that, this year, “honors six decades of mass movements in Detroit and beyond.” After the march, there will be a variety of cultural presentations at the rally, which is themed “Six Decades of Mass Movements, The Struggle Continues.” These presentations will highlight speakers and artists who are active in social justice movement, and strive for peace and self-determination. All progressive organizations and institutions are invited to help with the event, which is striving to win funding for the Right to Counsel Ordinance, ensure all Detroit residents have access to quality housing, water, schools and other services, end police brutality and misconduct, stop the Pentagram budget and demand to end the war in Ukraine, and eliminate poverty. For more information, visit Facebook.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, will be open during the event. In addition, a pop-up exhibit called How Long?: Revisitng Dr. Martin Luther King and His Legacy, which teaches about Dr. King’s life, will open on Jan. 14 and will remain open through Aug. 31. On MLK Day, there will be two hands-on workshops inspired by the life of MLK Jr.; screenings of Amazing Grace and Boblo Boats: A Detroit Ferry Taledance performances, readings of Dr. King’s most famous speeches, and much more. For more information, visit 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 a performance by gospel music singer, Vicky Winans, and a keynote address from Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, the President of the Detroit Branch of the NAACP. Admission is $50. For more information, visit Facebook.com.

Southfield MLK Peace Walk

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Task Force, Inc. hosts this 38th 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. Later in the evening, come back to Hope United Methodist Church for the MLK Youth Service Awards, which recognizes local youth for their community service work. This year’s event is themed “The Global Impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” Participants are asked to wear a mask. For more information, mlktastforcemi.org

A Day of Engagement, Honoring MLK

This Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event invites the entire family out for a day filled with informational talks and activities. It all begins at 4 p.m. with a viewing of the film The Mighty Ones — The Children’s March, and a workshop on how bias impacts perspectives. After, there will be donuts, cider, and hot chocolate along with a ceremony and entertainment. A candlelight walk closes out the event at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit roeper.org

This post was originally published in 2023 and is updated annually.