Scene at the Carolinas HealthCare System Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Parade in uptown Charlotte, January 14, 2017. (Photo: Glenn H. Burkins for

Happy birthday to ya.
Happy birthday to ya.
Hap-py birth-day!

Did you sing the Stevie Wonder rendition? Wonder’s Happy Birthday song was part of the ‘80s campaign to solidify Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a national holiday. It’s what I’m singing today as citywide celebrations kick off to honor Dr. King on his 90th birthday. From panels to parades, here is a list of events leading up to the national observance of his birthday on Jan. 21.

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Tuesday, Jan. 15

2019 Atrium Health Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Service
12-1 p.m.
Marshall Park, 800 E. 3rd St.

A brief service and wreath-laying ceremony at the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in uptown. Remarks from Dr. Robert C. Scott, senior pastor at St. Paul Baptist Church.

Thursday, Jan. 17

Bridging the Difference — Access and Opportunity
6-8 p.m.
Dale F. Halton Theater, 1206 Elizabeth Ave.

The Bridging the Difference community engagement series will tackle the topics of access and opportunity. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg police initiative will feature poetry spearheaded by Slam Master Boris “Bluz” Rogers and a panel of special guests including civil rights activist Dorothy Counts-Scoggins.

Saturday, Jan. 19

2019 Atrium Health Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Parade
10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Uptown Charlotte, Tryon Street from Ninth Street to Stonewall Street

More than 90 marching bands, step teams and other community organizations will participate. Highlights include floats with the student winners of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools art and writing contests as well as local performance groups.

Scene at the Carolinas HealthCare System Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Parade in uptown Charlotte, January 14, 2017. (Photo: Glenn H. Burkins for

United Way of Central Carolinas’ MLK Call to Service
12-2 p.m.
Four locations. Register here

  • Blythe Elementary School, 12202 Hambright Rd., Huntersville
  • East Mecklenburg High School, 6800 Monroe Rd.
  • Marie G. Davis K-8 School, 3351 W. Griffith St.
  • Renaissance West STEAM Academy, 3241 New Renaissance Way

A number of family-friendly service projects that allow participants to begin the new year by reflecting on the meaning of Dr. King’s life of service.

At each location there will be opportunities to:

  • Create math and vocabulary flash cards for schools
  • Make encouragement cards for Love In Action Project
  • Create no-sew baby blankets for Baby Bundles
  • Make bookmarks, bookworm buddies and bookworm letters for Promising Pages

2019 Atrium Health Martin Luther King Jr. Growing the Dream Award Ceremony
12:30-2:30 p.m.
Biddle Hall, Johnson C. Smith University, 100 Beatties Ford Rd.

A luncheon held to recognize Mecklenburg’s unsung heros and community members who work to foster unity and promote diversity and multiculturalism in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Space is limited.

MLK Please Educate All Children Equally (P.E.A.C.E) Basketball Showcase
2-9 p.m.
Second Ward Gymnasium, 710 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
$10 at the door, children 5 years old and younger are free

Eight high school teams from across North Carolina and South Carolina will compete in an invitational competition.

  • 2 p.m. – West Charlotte High School girls vs. Rock Hill High School girls
  • 4 p.m. – Harding University High School boys vs. Charlotte Elite boys
  • 5 p.m. – Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy boys vs. Comenius School for Creative Leadership boys
  • 7 p.m. – Rocky River High School boys vs. West Mecklenburg High School boys

2019 MLK Gospel Showcase featuring Kelontae Gavin
7 p.m.
Dale F. Halton Theater, 1206 Elizabeth Ave.
$15, get tickets

Get your praise on as groups such as The Park Church, DeMario “Mr. Mime” Carr, The Connecting Place at Greater Salem and DRC showcase their talents.


Sunday, Jan. 20

Bridging Musical Worlds 2019 – Celebrating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
5 p.m.
Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, 3400 Beatties Ford Rd.
$5, get tickets

The 11th annual event is a collaborative concert between A Sign Of The Times of the Carolinas, My Sister’s House, the Charlotte Folk Society and the UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture.

Monday, Jan. 21

25th Annual McCrorey YMCA MLK Holiday Breakfast
8-9:30 a.m.
Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St.
Sold out

Award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien keynotes the event with proceeds benefiting youth and families in the northwest corridor.

Food Lion® Presents: MLK Day Celebration
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, 551 S. Tryon St.

A day of family-friendly activities with panel discussions, art-making workshops, guided tours, film screenings and more.

2019 Atrium Health MLK National Observance, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Arts and Writing Contest Awards and the 2019 Medallion Award
10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Dale F. Halton Theater, 1206 Elizabeth Ave.

CMS students will honor the legacy of Dr. King’s advocacy of nonviolent protests through poetry, dance and works of art.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Medallion Award is presented each year to individuals in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community who exemplify the ideals of Dr. King.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Celebration
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. 7th St.

Bring the family and enjoy a youth volunteer fair along with performances, film screenings and arts and crafts.

Art • Poetry • Music: Celebrating Charlotte’s African-American community and the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
7-10 p.m.
Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, 3400 Beatties Ford Rd.

Art • Poetry • Music fuses music, spoken word and visual art with readings from iconic speeches by Dr. King. A collaborative concert by Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Quentin Talley’s OnQ Productions, David Tang’s Firebird Arts Alliance and Opera Carolina.

Katrina Louis is managing editor of who can always find something to do in Charlotte. She’s an offline hustler (and has the shirt to prove it) but when online, find her on Instagram and Twitter.

Katrina covers Charlotte's Black business scene for QCity Metro. She's a Miami transplant, pescatarian and lover of the arts. She earned a public relations degree from the University of Florida. Got a...