Martin Luther King, Jr., the chief spokesperson for the Civil Rights Movement, is memorialized annually on the third Monday of January. This floating holiday has evolved into more than just a day off from school. Now deemed a National Day of Service, MLK Day encourages volunteers across the country to donate their time in order to make a difference. This day reminds us of hope, compassion, and the ongoing potential for social change. Many New Jersey towns are hosting local activities, and we've put together a list that includes both celebrations and service activities.
All events take place on Monday, January 15, unless otherwise noted. Check out your local library calendars for additional events. And for more information on the life and work of Dr. King, please visit The King Center.
New Jersey Performing Arts Center Celebrates MLK Jr. – Newark
On Friday, January 12, NJPAC will host its annual MLK Celebration. This year's special event features Grammy-winning sister duo Mary Mary and Tasha Cobbs.
Take part in hands-on art projects and more at Newark Museum's Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration. Photo courtesy of the museum
The Newark Museum Family Day – Newark
Visit the Newark Museum from noon – 5pm to celebrate freedom and community while learning about the life and legacy of Dr. King. The museum will host activities for all ages, including film screenings, performances, and hands-on art and science programs.
Fanwood and Scotch Plains Martin Luther King Day of Service – Various locations
The neighboring towns of Fanwood and Scotch Plains will host their Annual Martin Luther King Day of Service. More than 40 nonprofit organizations will take part, offering new and exciting volunteer opportunities to the entire family.
Martin Luther King Day of Service 2018 at Rutgers University – Camden
From 8am – 1pm, the Rutgers-Camden campus will be hosting volunteer activities to celebrate the legacy of the man who reminds us that “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at the Reeves Reed Arboretum – Summit
The Arboretum invites young visitors to stop by to and make cards from recycled materials that will be given to local hospital patients for Valentine's Day.
Gloucester Township Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service – Blackwood
Gloucester Township offers ample opportunity to give back on MLK Day, with projects like creating fleece blankets for a women's shelter, assisting with shelter animals, crafting cards for troops, designing booklets for a children's hospital, and much more.
Drop-In Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Craft – Ocean Township
Waretown Library welcomes kids to drop by anytime during the day and make a craft celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Day Off with Nature: Earth Day of Service – Chatham
On MLK Day, spend this day of service giving back to nature. Discover how humans impact the earth and learn ways to help protect wildlife. Hands-on projects and outdoor learning add to the day’s fun.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative – Trenton
Stop by New Jersey State Museum to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work with guest speakers and discussions.
2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Observance & Fair – Maplewood and South Orange
Sponsored by the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race, this event includes music, interfaith readings, and a keynote address by civil rights activist Larry Hamm; a volunteer fair showcasing local service organizations; and luminary-lighting ceremonies in both South Orange and Maplewood.
Celebrate Dr. King: Explore the Dream Through Art – Maplewood
Express Yourself Studios will host its 10th annual MLK workshop, at which families with kids ages 4–12 can participate in an art project and learn about the Civil Rights Movement. Participants are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item for donation to a local charity, and a portion of the proceeds from the workshop will be donated to Color for Kids.
Jersey Cares 2018 Day of Service – Various locations
Jersey Cares, which carries a mission to “be the change," will lead projects throughout the Garden State. Last year, 1,700 volunteers participated in 20 service projects across 12 counties. From sorting donated clothing items to painting murals, individuals and families can find activities that will honor the spirit of MLK Jr.
If you're looking for more family volunteer opportunities, check out our Holiday Volunteering post.
Top photo: Kids can make MLK Jr.–inspired art at Express Yourself. Photo courtesy of Express Yourself.
Originally published 2012; updated 2018.