10 ways to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in NoVA

Musical performances, keynote speakers, honorary marches and more will take place this month.

woman and man singing at piano over purple background
Catch Damien Sneed and other artists as they bring the words and actions of Dr. King and other civil rights activists to life through songs and African American music traditions. (Photo by Frank Stewart)

In 2020, the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. live on. 

This year marks 52 years since the minister and civil rights activist was assassinated, and the Northern Virginia region is honoring his life and mission accordingly. 

Below, find 10 local ways you can sing, dance, experience, learn and discuss the values, morals and life lessons Martin Luther King Jr. left behind for generations to come. 

The Mountaintop
Through Sunday, Feb. 2, times vary
The actors of NextStop Theatre reimagine the moments the night before Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in The Mountaintop. Before that fatal moment in 1968, a young maid at the Lorraine Motel visits Dr. King and reveals the vulnerability of the civil rights leader. // NextStop Theatre Company: 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon; $35

Liner Notes: Music of the Movement – A Live Musical Journey Through the Music of the Civil Rights Era
Sunday, Jan. 19, 2-3:30 p.m.
Spend the afternoon listening to the songs inspired by the civil rights movement. This Liner Notes performance shows how music informed people of the struggle for human rights, through Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” and Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” // Reston Community Center: 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston; $15-$20

The Last Days of Martin Luther King Jr.
Sunday, Jan. 19, 3-5 p.m.
This play focuses on Preston Spencer, a black television reporter, as he sits down for an interview with Martin Luther King Jr. As Spencer begins to ask the difficult questions, his desperation collides with Dr. King’s integrity. // Franklin Park Arts Center: 36441 Blueridge View Lane, Purcellville; $20-$25

Dr. King’s Dream: A Legacy Performed
Sunday, Jan. 19, 5-6:30 p.m.
The 2020 celebration and honoring of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life will be seen through the story of four students from Arlington’s Halls Hill neighborhood who entered Stratford Junior High School in 1959, becoming the first students to desegregate a public school in Virginia. Enjoy performances of voice, dance, spoken word and more. // Wakefield High School: 1325 S. Dinwiddie St., Arlington; free

“I Have a Dream” Indie Film Showcase
Sunday, Jan. 19, 6:30-10:30 p.m.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t back down from hot-button issues, and now, his strength and power are being displayed by local, regionally based filmmakers with short films addressing immigration, teen pregnancy, mental health, environmentalism, police brutality, racism, homelessness and more. Community leaders and social activists will intertwine with movie showings throughout the night. // Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse: 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington; $20 (all attendees under 21 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian)

Fourth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration
Monday, Jan. 20, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Starting at the Tinner Hill Civil Rights Monument on Lee Highway, attendees will march to Falls Church Episcopal, and then divide into groups to provide community service to several local organizations. At noon, keynote speaker Joan Mulholland, a Freedom Rider and civil rights activist, will take the stage in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. // Tinner Hill Civil Rights Monument: 510 S. Washington St., Falls Church; free

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Symposium and Annual Student Diversity Conference
Monday, Jan. 20, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Now in its fourth year, the symposium and annual student diversity conference in Alexandria celebrates the legacy and ideals of Martin Luther King Jr. through keynote speakers and workshops. This year’s headlining keynote speaker is Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times bestseller of How to Be an Antiracist. // Episcopal School: 1200 N. Quaker Lane, Alexandria; $50

2020 MLK Celebration – Keynote Address and Community Lunch with Bakari Sellers
Wednesday, Jan. 20, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
At 22 years old, Bakari Sellers made history becoming the youngest member of the South Carolina state legislature and the youngest African American elected official in the United States. Now 35, he will speak at the Reston Community Center in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day about his continued political work. // Reston Community Center: 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston; $5 for Reston residents, $10 non-residents

Washington Performing Arts presents: Living the Dream … Singing the Dream
Sunday, Jan. 26, 7 p.m.
Celebrate the life of Dr. King with a stunning performance by the Washington Performing Arts’ Gospel Choirs. Enjoy a night of gospel music as the region honors the legendary civil rights leader. // The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, Washington DC; $25-$75

Damien Sneed’s We Shall Overcome
Thursday, Jan. 30; 7 p.m.
Join Damien Sneed and other artists as they bring the words and actions of Dr. King and other civil rights activists to life through songs and African American music traditions. // The Alden: 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean; $20-$45

A portion of this post can be found in our January 2020 issue. To have more local events sent straight to your inbox, subscribe to our weekly newsletters. 

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