Since 1983, Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been a federal holiday on the third Monday of every January to mark the birthday on Jan. 15, 1929, of the Civil Rights leader.

But a decade after it was established, Congress also designated it to be a National Day of Service – the only federal holiday to also be a day of service, a “day on, not a day off.”

Coretta Scott King said at the time, “The greatest birthday gift my husband could receive is if people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds celebrated the holiday by performing individual acts of kindness through service to others.”

Evanston is hosting a number of celebrations to mark the federal holiday and commemorate the civil rights leader. Here’s a roundup of events across the city. Americorps has put together a general list of ideas of things you can do today.

The RoundTable has a list of service events and celebrations in Evanston for you below.

And finally, those who cannot get out today can listen to King’s 1963 speech about the rights all Americans should have and his hopes for justice prevailing in this country.

Here is a link to the full text as well as NPR’s broadcast when it was delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

EPL celebrates King’s legacy

The Evanston Public Library plans several ways to learn about the civil rights icon and his legacy from 1:30 to 3:15 p.m. Jan. 16.

Families can watch short films Martin’s Big Words and March On!, do a craft and listen to a stirring segment of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, presented by the Rev. Eddie Reeves. Martin’s Big Words will screen at 1:30 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. March On! will be shown at 1:45 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Also, teens can participate in a service event at the library; from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 16. Young people can help create reusable sanitary pads for the Girls 4 Girls Ghana organization.

Finally, the library is also hosting Dedicated to the Dream conversations, a series of kid-friendly experiences around race and culture. Workshops are scheduled for 3:30 to 6 p.m. Jan. 21 and 5:30 to 8 p.m. Feb. 7 at the library.

Interfaith Walk for Warmth

Interfaith Action of Evanston is challenging folks to brave the cold to raise funds for local shelters keeping those without shelter warm. This is Interfaith’s fourth annual Walk for Warmth on Martin Luther King Day. The two-mile walk starts at 11 a.m. from the Hinman Avenue entrance of First United Methodist Church.

MLK candlelight vigil

The Rev. Michael C. R. Nabors will lead Evanston in prayer at 3 p.m. on Jan. 16. He is pastor of Evanston’s historic Second Baptist Church and president of the Evanston North Shore Branch of the NAACP. The candlelight vigil will take place at Northwestern University’s Alice Millar Chapel, 1870 Sheridan Rd.

The Big Payback Screenings

Evanston is a part of the nation’s celebration of MLK Day this year. The Big Payback will premiere at 10 p.m. Chicago time Jan. 16 on PBS. The documentary tells the story of Evanstonian Robin Rue Simmons paving the way for the nation’s first municipally funded reparations for Black residents. Unlike any other city in the nation, Evanston will also have a VIP showing of the film on MLK Day. The Evanston AMC 12 will be screening the film for free at 6 p.m. A Q&A session featuring the directors of the documentary, Erika Alexander and Whitney Dow, as well as Pastor Carlis Moody Jr. and Rabbi Andrea C. London, will follow the film. You can reserve your ticket on Eventbrite. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Northwestern’s MLK commemoration

Civil rights attorney and former President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Sherrilyn Ifill is Northwestern University’s 2023 MLK Dream Week keynote speaker. Ifill will discuss her decades of experience dismantling racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. Sheila Bedi, clinical professor of law and director of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, will moderate the discussion. The free event is 5 p.m. Jan. 23 at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive. Registration is required.

Chicago History Museum Family Event

A 30-minute drive away, families can experience MLK’s ties to Chicago.

The Chicago History Museum’s family-friendly annual event to commemorate MLK kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 16 with a group meditation led by Rita J from Oh So Medicinal.

Later the museum’s collections staff will teach visitors the history of North Lawndale, which King once called home. At 1 p.m. the museum will show the 2008 documentary King in Chicago and guests will have the opportunity to discuss the film with scholars. This all-day event is free for Illinois residents on Jan. 16. You can register for the event here.

YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s Racial Healing Week

The YWCA kicks off a weeklong effort “of events and reflection dedicated to elevating the work needed to end systemic inequity, restore wholeness, and repair damage.” The work will center around author Mariame Kaba’s book We Do This ‘Til We Free Us, and will feature book discussions and a virtual keynote by the author.

Manan Bhavnani

Prior to joining the RoundTable, Manan Bhavnani covered business and technology for the International Business Times, with a focus on mergers, earnings and governance. He is a double Medill graduate, with...

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