King holiday events largely go virtual but still help others

Some in-person events held but with pandemic precautions

Normally during this holiday weekend, visitors from around the country would flock to Atlanta to pay their respects to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and take part in a tradition of helping others to celebrate his life and legacy.

This pandemic-disrupted year will still have opportunities to attend a special service at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church — though online — but many traditional observations and events commemorating what would have been King’s 92nd birthday have been muted by the coronavirus.

The Ebenezer service, which usually draws more than 1,000 people downtown, will be broadcast Monday at 10:30 a.m. online on Facebook, YouTube and and on television on WAGA Fox 5. The keynote speaker of the Beloved Community Commemorative Service will be megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter’s House. The Rev. Raphael Warnock, the newly elected U.S. senator and Ebenezer’s senior pastor, will also speak.

The theme of this year’s event is building a just society with equal opportunity, Bernice King, daughter of the civil rights icon and CEO of the King Center, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“As I consider the inhumanity, injustice and indifference currently persisting in our world, particularly in the United States of America, I cannot imagine a more relevant and powerful way to commemorate my father’s birthday than with focus on the urgency of creating the Beloved Community,” she said. “Now, more than ever, we must turn our attention to fostering reconciliation, which includes truth and repentance, and also turn our attention to achieving true peace, which includes justice.”

Following the annual service, there will be a King family wreath laying on the campus of the King Center, honoring King Jr. and King Center founder Coretta Scott King.

However, the annual parade and march through the city won’t take place this year.

Some in-person opportunities exist for those wanting to continue the tradition of service and for those in need.

Hosea Helps will give away food, blankets and personal protective equipment Monday at a drive-through and walk-up event that goes from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside the Georgia World Congress Center.

ExploreMartin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta offers virtual tours and livestream events for the King holiday

Repair the World, which promotes community service, is collaborating with other Jewish groups on more than 5,000 acts of kindness in King’s memory. There are virtual events — like a discussion group on how to be a better ally — and in-person ones, such as delivering meals to people in need and planting trees with Trees Atlanta. To sign up for events, see

Metro Atlantans will gather at the 10th annual MLK Day Drum Run in Stone Mountain Park, but for this year’s event, participants are encouraged to stay 6 feet apart and wear masks until the run begins. The 5K run, which also features the thumps of drummers, is a fundraiser for area schools, churches and community organizations.

Another event taking pandemic precautions will be Brookhaven’s annual MLK Dinner and Program. This year’s gathering will be held outdoors. Diners will be handed their food at a designated area in the parking lot of the city’s MARTA station, so they can enjoy it in their vehicles while speakers take to a stage.

“A great part of me is sad, not being able to do some of the things we traditionally do in connecting with each other,” Bernice King said. “It feels very awkward to me. But I thank God for the gift of technology that allows us to still do something that is meaningful and, in many ways, can be impactful. I don’t know what we would do without it.”

Staff writers Ernie Suggs, Zachary Hansen and Kiersten Willis contributed to this story.


Upcoming King holiday events go virtual, focus on creating just society

7 Martin Luther King Jr. quotes you may not know

MLK Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta offers online King Day events, virtual tours

Virtual service opportunity for MLK weekend from Repair the World

Things to do MLK Jr. Day Weekend in metro Atlanta

MLK Jr. Day events in DeKalb County

Sandy Springs plans virtual celebration for MLK Day