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Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. | List of 2021 events in Kentuckiana

Due to COVID-19, many events have shifted from in-person to virtual.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — This year marks the 35th anniversary of the first observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday. Celebrations marking the life and legacy of King take place the entire weekend leading up to a day of service. 

However, COVID-19 has impacted in-person events throughout the community. Organizations and companies are turning to alternatives to keep people safe. 

Here's a list of virtual happenings during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend 2021.


Jan. 17

The annual Keepers of the Dream community arts celebration honoring Dr. King isn’t taking place this year but instead officials have announced a virtual concert featuring jazz legend Wynton Marsalis.

The Democracy! Suite, composed by Marsalis, was written during the pandemic and is his response to the political, social, and economic struggles facing the nation. Officials say it is a “a swinging and stimulating instrumental rumination on the issues that have recently dominated our lives as well as the beauty that could emerge from a collective effort to create a better future.”

The free performance takes place Jan. 17 at 4 p.m.

Reservations are required and for more information on this event, click here.

4 p.m.

A&S Yearlings Club Forum Series, Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday Program

As the country transitions from the Trump to the Biden administration, the country is poised to address the important issues facing the country. 

The annual program will feature Congressman John Yarmuth, Dr. Cheri Dawson-Edwards, Associate Dean, Diversity, Engagement, Culture and Climate at the University of Louisville discuss the priorities of the new Congress.

To register for this virtual webinar, click here.

Jan. 18

9:30 a.m. 

King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Event will get underway at 28th and Broadway where Rev. Dr. Charles Elliott Jr. will lead a prayer of healing and ending with a service ending at the church on Anderson Street. 

10 a.m.

The 36th Annual Archdiocesan Community-wide Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration will take place at the Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville.

The celebration’s theme is “It’s Time to Repair” and will feature Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, the Archdiocesan Gospel Choir and others for service of prayer and praise that will honor Dr. King and everything he fought for.

Officials said Due to COVID-19 restrictions, in-person attendance will be limited.

It will also be livestreamed. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR392kEexP3gOheX0RgD-nw. 

The Cathedral is located at 433 South Fifth Street.


Officials are moving forward with the Holiday Freedom March. It will take place at 10 a.m. but will have changes due to COVID-19. Click here for that information.

Since traditional plans for commemorative program in Heritage Hall have been halted, the Lexington MLK Holiday Committee partnered with filmmaker Joan Brannon to create the documentary, “Fire and Heart: A Blueprint for Liberation.” The doc examines racial justice and healing discourse for Black Kentuckians. That film will be shown on the committee’s YouTube channel at noon.


The county will honor Dr. King with their "Empowering the Dream: The Fierce Urgency of Now! virtual celebration. The event will feature a variety of speakers including Terrance Sullivan, executive director of the Kentucky Commission of Human Rights. 

The event takes place Jan. 16 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

Click here for more info.


Jan. 17

Indiana University hosts "We Are Not Makers of History, We Are Made of History

Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Journalist April Ryan attends the National Board of Review awards gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

The virtual event featuring White House Correspondent and CNN Political Analyst April Ryan will discuss the state of civil rights and the need to persist toward freedom for all. 

The event begins promptly at 7 p.m. and will have a question and answer session shortly after. 

Admission is free.

Click here to register

Jan. 18

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

Indiana University is hosting a day-long diversity and social justice conference with concurrent sessions for IU faculty, staff, students and community members. 

There will be conversations on social justice, leadership, equality and ways the community can build a world more reflective of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream.

Featured speakers include educator and activist Angela Davis and Alicia Garza, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter and the Black Lives Matter Global Network. The event will be moderated by political commentator and Impact Strategies CEO Angela Rye. 

Credit: Indiana University Diversity
Indiana University's "Where Do We Go From Here" 2021 social justice conference.

Click here to register for this event.  

Bloomington - Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration via Zoom. 

The City of Bloomington presents the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration, a virtual event on Monday, January 18, 2021 (program starts at 7 p.m.) All members of the public are welcome to attend (information forthcoming) and experience:

  • Keynoter Dr. Khalid el-Hakim, founder and curator of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, a collection of over 7,000 original artifacts of Black memorabilia dating from the trans-Atlantic slave trade era to hip-hop culture, who will speak on “The Truth Hurts: Black History and and Healing the Racial Divide”
  • Featured performances by the Indiana University African American Choral Ensemble, directed by Dr. Raymond Wise and the Jacobs School of Music Ballet Department
  • Mayor John Hamilton presenting the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award
  • Recognition of “A Day On! Not a Day Off!” service volunteers
  • Closing remarks TBD

Click here for RSVP information