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Martin Luther King Day Seattle

An event photo from 2019. (Seattle Martin Luther King Jr. Organizing Coalition.)

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Family-friendly events around Seattle

Workshops, performances, a march and the reopening of the Northwest African American Museum

Martin Luther King Day in Seattle, 2023: Monday, Jan. 16, is the national holiday commemorating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

Whether you decide to attend a march or honor Dr. King quietly in your own way, take the opportunity to explore and share his message of community, service and equality.

A week of workshops

The Seattle Area Martin Luther King Organizing Coalition will hold a week of events and workshops from Jan. 10-14. Topics include oppression, the reparations movement, immigrant rights, bystander intervention strategies and community  healing.

A special workshop entitled “Community Dialogue on Mass Incarceration” will be held beginning at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, at Washington Hall, 153 14th Ave. It will be a discussion on mass incarceration and how to support Black and Brown men who were incarcerated as kids and came home as men, after long stints in prison.

Virtual event for youths

A young leaders event will be streamed from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15. Topics will include youth mental health, gun violence, gentrification, reproductive rights and more.

Martin Luther King Day Seattle: march and rally

The marquee event in Seattle is the annual march and rally sponsored by the Seattle Area Martin Luther King Organizing Coalition.

The rally takes place at 11 a.m. Monday in the Garfield High School front parking lot. The march is set to depart at 12:30 p.m. However, the exact route is not being publicized.

Details about the event, including COVID-19 precautions, here. Important: Anyone feeling ill or experiencing respiratory or other COVID symptoms is asked to not attend the march.

Northwest African American Museum reopening

The Northwest African American Museum chose Martin Luther King Day to reopen for in-person programming after an extended pandemic closure. The museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an array of activities for all ages.

The museum continued virtual events, including its online interactive story hours on the second Sunday of each month. Two upcoming ones: “Martin’s Big Words,” telling of the life of the civil-rights leader in his own words, featured at 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8; and “Jake Makes a World,” the story of artist Jacob Lawrence, at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12. The events are available on NAAM’s YouTube channel (find previous storytimes and programs there, too).

Martin Luther King Day Seattle: Do something good

The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of community service and volunteering, and the holiday often features some large work parties and volunteer opportunities.

United Way of King County has a searchable list of volunteer opportunities. (Pro tip: filter for “family-friendly.”)

You also can honor Dr. King by doing good as a family: Pick up litter in your neighborhood, help a neighbor, donate to a food bank or other nonprofit.

Related: More ways your family can volunteer

Seattle MLK Day 2023: More events

Seattle Colleges will hold its 50th annual Community Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., at Brockey Center at South Seattle College on Friday, Jan. 13. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. for breakfast and socializing. The program, with the theme “Joy of Community,” begins at 10:30, with emcee Monique Ming Laven from  KIRO 7; keynote speaker Rev. Sharon Risher; music by DaNell Daymon & Greater Works. (The program will also be livestreamed on SCCtv.) It will continue with a Community Conversation from 1 to 2 p.m. with Rev. Risher and D’Andre Fisher.

The Washington State History Museum in Tacoma will have free admission on Monday, Jan. 16, and will commemorate the day with special performances.  Tacoma Arts Live will perform the original production “11 Days in the Life of Dr. King” at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; Living Voices presents “The Right to Dream: Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s,” at 3 p.m.


On-your-own observations:

The King Center is a great resource for learning about Dr. King’s life and teachings. Stanford University also has an institute with an extensive online collection, including an annotated version of the “I Have a Dream” speech. In addition, there are a lot of ideas on Pinterest.

Read: Even the youngest kids can begin to learn about Dr. King and his message, and there are lots of books to help. Here is just one list, put together by PBS. Here’s another extensive list: Books and resources to help your family explore racial identity and social justice.

King County Library System has this  list of books on Dr. King.


Also: Washington State Parks have free admission on Monday, Jan. 16.



About the Author

Julie Hanson

Julie Hanson is a longtime journalist, South King County resident and mom to a 15-year-old girl.