Phoenix Celebrates MLK Day 2018

Commemorating the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Grand Canyon
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Each year on the third Monday of January, citizens of our country take time to recognize and celebrate the birth, the life, and the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who helped shape the future of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and if you happen to be in the Greater Phoenix area on MLK Day (January 15, 2018; January 21, 2019; January 20,2020), there are plenty of events across the region celebrating this hero's life and legacy.

Here are some of the events being held in the Greater Phoenix area where you can take time out to acknowledge the value of diversity, the progress we've made toward freedom and equality for all people, and continued efforts to strengthen our communities.

Arranged by the city where the events take place, the following activities tourists can enjoy in Arizona for Martin Luther King Jr. Day range from multicultural festivals to commemorative fundraiser breakfasts and special parades. Explore the following and plan your MLK Day celebrations before you take off on your mid-January trip.

  • 01 of 07
    Phoenix, Arizona Downtown Skyline
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    The City of Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, hosts several major events in January to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: the MLK Awards Breakfast, the MLK March and Festival, the Community Day of Service, the MLK Youth Celebration, and the MLK Basketball Classic.

    The Phoenix Convention Center hosts the MLK Awards Breakfast, which recognizes outstanding citizens with the Calvin C. Goode Lifetime Achievement and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "Living the Dream" awards, both of which honor the legacy of change these men have made in the United States. In 2018, the event takes place on Friday, January 12 and kicks off the annual Torch Run.

    The MLK March and Festival both take place on Monday, January 15, with the March starting at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church (assemble at 8:30 a.m.) and culminating at Margaret T. Hance Park for the festival. The March is meant to be symbolic of King's revolutionary 1968 march while the Festival celebrates his life and legacy through interactive displays, vendors, entertainment, and cultural food and art.

    Closing out the month, the MLK Youth Festival takes place on January 27 at Phoenix College, where the NAACP/Black Student Union puts on several workshops, educational displays, and networking events for students in the Phoenix area.

  • 02 of 07


    Adam Schmid/Getty Images

    Located just southeast of Phoenix, Tempe celebrates MLK Day in 2018 with its annual MLK Diversity Awards Breakfast, hosted by the Tempe Human Relations Commission, and the Regional Unity Walk at Tempe Beach Park.

    Located at the Tempe Marriott at the Buttes, the 20th Annual MLK Diversity Awards Breakfast will start with check-in at 8:00 a.m. on January 8, 2018, and features a keynote speech, live entertainment, and recognition of local community leaders who have made an impact in Tempe in the past year.

    Featuring a Candlelight Walk at sundown, the city of Tempe hosts the Regional Unity Walk and Diversity Celebration, which invites residents of the cities of Tempe, Chandler, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale and the towns of Gilbert and Guadalupe to come together to promote mutual respect and understanding on January 27 at 4:30 p.m. where guests can enjoy entertainment, free refreshments, local dignitaries, and food trucks before the 6:00 p.m. walk.

  • 03 of 07
    Mesa AZ
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    Directly east of Tempe, the City of Mesa plays host to three MLK Day events: Breakfast at the Convention Center, the MLK Parade, and the Community Festival, all on January 15, 2018, celebrating the theme "Dream Big with S.T.E.M." (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics).

    The MLK Parade in  Downtown Mesa is the highlight of the day, a community celebration including marching bands, business supporters, community members, and local leaders, and starts at 11:00 a.m. Traditionally, the Mesa Convention Center also hosts a  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast, which features a guest speaker from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. to start off the day, and the Mesa Arts Center usually hosts an MLK Festival after the parade.

    However, this year the East Valley Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, which puts on the parade and associated events, is struggling to raise money to support the events so these events have yet to be announced for 2018. Head over to the official Mesa MLK website for updates on fundraising initiatives and programming as the event draws near. 

  • 04 of 07
    Chandler AZ
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    Each year, the City of Chandler, just south of Mesa, hosts the Chandler Multicultural Festival over MLK Day weekend, and this year the city celebrates the cultural diversity of the community through music, dance, art, sports, and arts at the Downtown Library Courtyard.

    In 2018, festivities take place January 13 from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m. and features partnerships with the Chandler International Film Festival (films start at 7:30 p.m.), Chandler Men of Action, East Valley Jewish Community Center, Chandler Center for the Arts, Friends of the Library, Human Relations Commission, and the City of Chandler to bring a variety of cultural events to the lineup this year. Paired with the Celebration of Unity, this event is a great way to celebrate the legacy of equality Martin Luther King Jr. left behind.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07
    Scottsdale AZ
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    Located to the northeast of Phoenix, Scottsdale plays host to two major events to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King, the Scottsdale MLK Dinner and the Peace and Community Day.

    This year, Bob Enderle, a Human Resources manager for over 35 years, and Ken E. Nwadike Jr., a peace activist, inspirational speaker, and video journalist popularly known as the Free Hugs Guy headline the annual Scottsdale MLK Dinner on January 9, 2018, at 6:00 p.m.

    As part of the annual Sunday A'Fair, the Peace and Community Day celebration takes place on Sunday, January 14 from noon to 4;00 p.m. and features a variety of musical performances outdoors at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

  • 06 of 07


    Floris Van Breugel/Nature Picture Library/Getty Images

    Located just to the northwest of Phoenix, the City of Surprise, Arizona hosts an annual Day of Celebration and Services at Surprise City Hall in honor of Dr. King. This year, festivities begin at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 13 with the Light Breakfast & Celebration, followed by a brief keynote speech by Dr. C. T. Wright, a grassroots activist, and a program emceed by ABC15 anchor Susan Casper.

    Following the program, at 9:45 a.m., volunteers will be sent out into the community to complete service projects that include food sorting, painting, landscaping, trash collection, and more. Projects will last approximately one to four hours, and individuals and families do not have to register in advance as assignments will be given at the event; however, groups must RSVP for project assignments.

  • 07 of 07

    National Parks and Other Events

    Grand Canyon
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    All national parks in the U.S. will offer free admission to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Here are a map and list of Arizona's National Parks.

    Various Phoenix area locations also offer a weekend of service projects to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hands On Greater Phoenix lists various community service projects for MLK Day, and each project has details, including minimum age for participation.