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 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.
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 18th and kicks off the annual Torch Run.
The MLK March and Festival both take place on Monday, January 21st, 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 at Phoenix College, where the NAACP/Black Student Union puts on several workshops, educational displays, and networking events for students in the Phoenix area (the date and time for this event is TBD).
Located just southeast of Phoenix, Tempe celebrates MLK Day 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 Annual MLK Diversity Awards Breakfast will start with check-in at 8:00 a.m. 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 where guests can enjoy entertainment, free refreshments, local dignitaries, and food trucks before the 6:00 p.m. walk.
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.
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 typically 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.
Head over to the official Mesa MLK website for updates on fundraising initiatives and programming as the event draws near as the events are TBD.
Each January, the City of Chandler holds a series of events to honor our community's heritage and diversity, along with the spirit, ideals, life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the civil rights movement.
As a joint collaboration between Chandler International Film Festival, 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, they present an extensive variety of community events in which more than 10,000 people participate annually. Become a part of Chandler's Annual Celebration of Unity events scheduled throughout the month of January.
One: Candlelight Vigil for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will take place on Sunday from 4-6pm.
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.
The 25th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "Living the Dream" Community Dinner Celebration will take place on Wednesday at the Embassy Suites, Scottsdale. The keynote speaker for the dinner will be Carmen Perez-Jordan, a modern day activist who has dedicated 20 years advocating for today's important issues.
As part of the annual Sunday A'Fair, the Peace and Community Day (exact day TBD) celebration takes place from noon to 4;00 p.m. and features a variety of musical performances outdoors at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
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 with the Light Breakfast & Celebration, followed by a brief keynote speech Mr. Clay Dix, a social worker, agency administrator, educator, consultant, staff trainer and public speaker. He is nationally recognized for his lifetime commitment to diversity and fatherhood. He worked for Arizona State University West and served as the chairman of the social work departments at Valparaiso University and ASU West. Dix founded and directed the New Choices Program, an alcohol and drug treatment program that also develops parenting skills and prevents child abuse and neglect. He is active with Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church and has volunteered on numerous community boards, including Maricopa County Community Services Commission, Salvation Army Family Services Board of Directors, National Council on Alcoholism, Christian Family Care Agency and the Judicial Council of the Arizona State Supreme Court.
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.
National Parks and Other Events
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.