Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day ~ January 16, 2023




Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in West Potomac Park, Washington, D.C.

Every year, on the third Monday of January, the United State of America honors the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, the celebration and reflection of his life will take place on January 16th. It is a Federal, State and City Holiday, and for many New Yorkers, it is a day of service. How will you reflect on the meaning of that day? Here are a few suggestions, with more to be added in the next week.

We begin this post with a new art installation, not in New York, but on the Boston Common in Massachusetts. Entitled ‘The Embrace’, a Memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King

image via bostoncommon.org

The 20-foot-high and 40-foot-wide, 38,000 pound bronze sculpture depicts the hands and arms of the couple in an embrace. “The Embrace,” the towering bronze memorial honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, was unveiled to the public on Friday, January 13, 2023, the culmination of years of work by Embrace Boston, a racial and economic justice activist group.

Artist Hank Willis Thomas was selected, along with design firm MASS Design Group, to create the memorial and surrounding plaza. It is comprised of about 609 individual pieces, and built at the Walla Walla Foundry in Washington.


Uptown Hall ~ MLK Blueprint for the Culture ~ January 15 at The Apollo Theater

Mark your calendars for the in-person return of Apollo and WNYC’s annual Uptown Hall celebrating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his enduring legacy on the culture. Free tickets are available starting January 2nd.  This is a Free Event with RSVP to be held on Sunday, January 15th at 3pm at the Apollo Theater.


The Last Poets & J. Ivy: Honoring MLK and the Spirit of Gil Scott-Heron at SOB’s ~ January 15

The Last Poets are several groups of poets and musicians who arose from the late 1960s African-American civil rights movement’s black nationalism. The name is taken from a poem by the South Africanrevolutionary poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, who believed he was in the last era of poetry before guns would take over. The original users of that name were the trio of Abiodun OyewoleGylan Kain, and David Nelson.


Celebrate MLK Day at Brooklyn Children’s Museum ~ January 15-16

Join the Museum to celebrate the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through interactive performances, protest marches, community art programs, and volunteer projects!

Each day features shadow puppet performances and puppet-making with Nehprii Amenii, poster-making and protest marching with Brooklyn-based musician Fyütch, and the creation of a community dream cloud in BCM’s ColorLab art studio.


The 37th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ~ January 16 at BAM

Photo: Flip Schulke Archives/Corbis Premium Historical via Getty Images courtesy BAM.org

Join us at BAM or via livestream for this beloved Brooklyn tradition, which rings in a new year with music, performances, and an urgent and timely call to action—Defending Democracy—led by keynote speaker Sherrilyn Ifill.


The New York Parks Department January 14-16

One of the events in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is – Family Art Project: Freedomm Quilters of Gee’s Bend

The Parks Department has several events honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., from January 14th at Wave Hill through January 16th in Queens. Some of the events this year will include a family art project learning about the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Harlem Street Tree Care, and a Day of Service.


Martin Luther King, Jr. at Standford U on April 14, 1967 ~ a film documentary

Film documents a speech given by Martin Luther King at Stanford University on April 14, 1967 about racism and civil rights in American society. Dr. King contends that there are “two Americas”: one “beautiful” and the “other America, ” which is an “arena of blasted hopes and dreams.” He goes on to explain that “we are seeking to make America one nation.”

View more of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in speech on YouTube.


The James Van Der Zee Archive ~ The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Conversation with Thelma Golden

Join Jeff L. Rosenheim, The Met’s Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs, in dialogue with Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum, on the James Van Der Zee Archive at The Met, a landmark collaborative initiative to research, conserve, and provide full public access to the remarkable catalogue of photographs by James Van Der Zee (1886–1983).


NYC Landmarks Preservation ‘Seneca Village Unearthed’ Online

1855 Viele Topographic Survey with the added outline of Seneca Village, courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives.

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)  launched the site, Seneca Village Unearthed, an online exhibit and collection of artifacts from what was once New York City’s largest community of free African-American landowners. Seneca Village was located in what is now Central Park, a scenic landmark. Through this online exhibit and collection, the general public will for the first time have access to nearly 300 artifacts and get a glimpse of what life was like for Seneca villagers in the mid-19th century



Central Park Conservancy Honors History by Adding Seneca Village Signage

Photo credits: The Central Park Conservancy developed this program of interpretative signage based on research conducted by the Institute for the Exploration of Seneca Village History (IESVH), with additional research and content development by the Conservancy and Hunter Research, Inc. Project management by Hunter Research, Inc. and graphic design by Douglas Scott. Sign fabrication by Pannier Graphics. The IESVH includes Cynthia Copeland, Paul Johnson, Celedonia Jones, Meredith Linn, Nan Rothschild, Herbert Seignoret, Diana diZerega Wall, and Sharon Wilkins.

The Central Park Conservancy launched its first major interpretive signage initiative in Central Park to commemorate Seneca Village, a predominantly African American community that existed before the City of New York created Central Park. The interpretive signs build on decades of research, including the work of the Institute for the Exploration of Seneca Village History (IESVH) — a group of scholars and archeologists who have been studying Seneca Village — as well as the Conservancy’s deep knowledge of the history of Central Park and long involvement in the study of Seneca Village.


Visit the Oldest African-American Musical Organization in the Country ~ NAMA

Founded in 1904, the New Amsterdam Musical Association (NAMA) is the oldest African-American musical organization in the country. It was founded at a time when the musicians union didn’t admit minority musicians, and the law stated that one had to be in the union in order to perform in New York City!


Take a Historic Harlem Walking Tour

Mural ‘Spirit of Harlem’ by artist Louis Del Sarte, Commissioned for the people of Harlem by North Fork Bank, 2005 and restored and dedicated to the Harlem community in 2018. Located on the corner of 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Blvd. in Harlem. Photo credit: AFineLyne

Harlem-based tour company Welcome To Harlem originated in 2004 with tour guides who are born and raised in the neighborhood. Tours range from walking tours through historic neighborhoods to jamming jazz and gospel brunch.

New from Welcome to Harlem, Harlem Roots. Take a Harlem Civil Rights Virtual Tour!

Traverse Harlem, learn its personalities, and play your way through the Harlem Renaissance with Harlem-Opoly, the Board Game.


MTA Arts & Design Celebrates Black History + Culture with its treasure trove of artwork within the MTA System

Artist, Beatrice Lebreton ‘Wisdom Along the Way’, 2017 at Rockaway Avenue

MTA Arts & Design honors Black history throughout all five boroughs. Read about the artists who created the work, where the artwork is located and the meaning behind each piece.


African American Landmarks & Historic Districts in New York City by NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

nyc Landmarks Preservation Commission Site ~ Cover Image: This bird’s eye view of New York City, including Brooklyn, was created by John Backman in 1859. Source: Bird’s eye view of the city of New York. Brooklyn. Williamsburg. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library Digital Collections

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) created an interactive story map to celebrate New York City’s African American history through its designated places. Entitled Preserving Significant Places of Black History, it celebrates New York City’s African American history through designated landmarks and historic districts. For five decades LPC has been recognizing, supporting, and celebrating places of African American cultural and historic significance through designation. This story map highlights landmarks and historic districts that illustrate the experiences and achievements of African Americans through interactive maps, narrative text, images, and multimedia content.


Visit The Historic African Burial Ground

The Maerschalck map of the City of New York is a historic map made in 1754 that clearly shows the African Burial Ground and its surrounding neighborhood. Library of Congress

African Burial Ground (managed by the National Park Service) is the oldest and largest known excavated burial ground in North America for both free and enslaved Africans. It protects the historic role slavery played in building New York. The Visitors Center is located at 290 Broadway; The outside memorial is located at the intersection of African Burial Ground Way (formerly Elk Street) and Duane Street.


Explore the History of Victor Hugo Green and The Green Books Online Through The Schomburg Center

Covers of The Negro Motorist Green Book published by Victor H. Green: 1940, 1956, and 1962. Public access via the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, New York Public Library

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture houses the full digital collection of Green Books and other similar guides.


Explore Brooklyn’s Anti-Slavery Movement at Brooklyn Historical Society

Image: Brooklyn (Breukelen). Brooklyn Eagle. 1946. F129.B7 B766 1946 c.2.
Brooklyn Historical Society.

In Pursuit of Freedom explores Brooklyn’s anti-slavery movement from the end of the American Revolution to the early days of Reconstruction through photographs, census records, anti-slavery and local newspapers, maps and more.


National Museum of African American History & Culture ~ January 16

If you are in Washington, D.C., celebrate at the Community Event: The People’s Holiday from 11am to 3pm on the first and 2nd floor of The National Museum of African American History & Culture.


Save the Date for Crafting Freedom: The Life and Legacy of Free Black Potter Thomas W. Commeraw at New York Historical Society ~ January 27

Thomas W. commerce, Jug, ca. 1800-1819. New York Historical Society, Purchased from Elie Nadelman, 1937.820.

Crafting Freedom: The Life and Legacy of Free Black Potter Thomas W. Commeraw is the first exhibition to bring overdue attention to a skilled craftsman whose racial identity was long overlooked. Born enslaved, Commeraw rose to prominence as a free Black entrepreneur, owning and operating a successful pottery. Over a period of two decades, Commeraw amassed property, engaged in debates over state and national politics, and participated in the life of New York City’s free Black community. The exhibition explores Commeraw’s multi-faceted history—as a craftsman, business owner, family man, and citizen.