MLK Day celebrations kick off tomorrow in Little Rock


Editor's Note: This event took place in 2017. 

On Monday, January 16, the nation will celebrate the birth anniversary of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 and celebrated in all 50 states for the first time in 2000, the federal holiday has become synonymous with community service, as local, regional and national organizations have seized the opportunity to create special “day of service” activities in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. In Arkansas, there are several ways—on several days—to participate.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

King Week kicks off tomorrow, Friday, January 13, with the 2017 Empowerment Symposium, beginning at 6 p.m. at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. The symposium will feature a round-table discussion on race relations and Dr. King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence among community leaders including State NAACP President Rizelle Aaron and Major Carl Minden of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office.

Special guest speakers will be Andrew Collins, a former crooked cop, and Jameel McGee, an innocent man whom he framed—which ultimately resulted in them both spending time in prison. After all was said and done, McGee chose to forgive Collins, and their powerful story made national news. Following the discussions will be a King Holiday Legends Concert featuring R&B artist Miki Howard.

This program is hosted by the Arkansas Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission in collaboration with the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Department of Arkansas Heritage, Arkansas NAACP, Arkansas Fair Housing Commission and the Urban League of Arkansas. 

On Monday, January 16, a day that has come to be known as a day of service, or what the MLK, Jr. Commission calls “a day on, not a day off,” Little Rock Central High School will host Mega Kingfest ’17 beginning at 12 p.m., with doors opening at 11 a.m. The day opens with a free concert by the Grammy-nominated British-American rapper and storyteller Slick Rick, who will perform and talk about the dangers of youth violence as part of the Nonviolence Youth Summit.

Featured guests include Annie Abrams, a local educator and activist who was a close associate of Daisy Bates’s during the desegregation crisis and who was a leader in the successful campaign to rename High Street in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.; Savannah Skidmore, Miss Arkansas 2016; “Goodburger” co-star Kel Mitchell; and Skai Jackson, co-star of Disney’s “Bunk’d.” For the first time, those who cannot attend in person will be able to watch the event in a live stream from the Arkansas Department of Education.

Central High isn’t the only place to honor Dr. King’s legacy by getting involved in community service. For a list of other MLK Day service projects and opportunities, just check out the website of the Corporation for National and Community Service.