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 16, 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.
Dance Theatre of Harlem will perform at NJPAC's MLK Celebration. Photo by Rachel Neville/courtesy of NJPAC.
New Jersey Performing Arts Center Celebrates MLK Jr. – Newark
On Saturday, January 14, NJPAC will host its annual MLK Celebration. This year's special event features the world-renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem.
The Newark Museum Family Day – Newark
Visit the Newark Museum from noon – 4 p.m. 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.
Explore the Dream through Art at Express Yourself Studios – Maplewood
Children ages 4–12 are invited to the annual Celebrate Dr. King: Explore the Dream through Art workshop. Attendees will learn about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement by exploring peace, equality, and friendship in art.
Fanwood and Scotch Plains host Day On, Not a Day Off – 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 2017 at Rutgers University – Camden
From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Rutgers-Camden campus will be hosting volunteer activities to celebrate the legacy of the man that reminds us “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”
Jersey Cares 2017 Day of Service – Various locations
Jersey Cares, which carries a mission to “be the change," will lead projects throughout the Garden State. Last year, 1,300 volunteers participated in 25 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.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at the Reeves Reed Arboretum – Summit
The Arboretum invites teens to help the park's horticulture crew prepare for spring. Meanwhile, younger visitors can stop by to make cards that will be given to local hospital patients for Valentine's Day.
MLK Day Skate & Play – Westville
Spend MLK Day at Deptford Skating Center, which will host two sessions of fun plus a visit from Marshall from "Paw Patrol." Included in the admission price: skating, Funzone, inflatables, food and drinks. Call 856-845-7353 for more info.
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 2017.