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Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022 with thoughtful events and community involvement

Students Riza Rivera (center) and Raven Jones (right) hold a sign as they join other students in a march along San Bruno Avenue during a multi-school event honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 2015. Photo: Michael Short / Special to The Chronicle

Arts organizations across the Bay Area plan to host special events to honor the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Georgia-born civil rights leader and minister who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The national holiday, which takes place on the third Monday of January each year, serves as a day of remembrance for King, who was killed in Memphis in 1968. This year, it will be celebrated on Monday, Jan. 17.

Despite continuing unrest due to the ongoing battle against COVID-19 variants, lots of in-person as well as virtual events are set to go ahead this year, along with Day of Service volunteer opportunities.

Check out The Chronicle’s guide for ways to commemorate the occasion, help enrich the community and raise your voice in the name of peace and justice. Events are subject to change; check venue or organization sites for the latest updates.

Soprano Hope Briggs performs Verdi’s “Tacea la Notte Placida” with the Oakland East Bay Symphony. At right is conductor Michael Morgan. Photo: Noah Berger / The Chronicle

Toward Justice: MLK Celebration of Freedom, Civil Rights and Social Justice

The evening event is scheduled to include performances from Lena Byrd Miles, Naté the Soulsanger, soprano Hope Briggs, Marcus Phillips, spoken word artist Shawn William, Bishop Yvette Flunder and others. Live-stream viewing will be available on the San Francisco Human Rights Commission‘s Facebook channel.

5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13. Free, vaccination proof, masking and registration required. Herbst Theatre, Van Ness Ave., S.F. 415-857-0595.

MLK Jr. and Environmental Justice: Recognizing the Tree of Knowledge in the Tree of Life

The Jewish holiday of Tu BiShvat and Martin Luther King Jr. Day fall on the same day in 2022. Through historical storytellingauthor Cara Judea Alhadeff plans to relate interconnections between the two holidays with insight from her book on environmental justice — “Zazu Dreams: Between the Scarab and the Dung Beetle, a Cautionary Fable for the Anthropocene Era” — during an online discussion.

7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13. Free, registration required. Online event. 415-444-8000.

‘The Life of Dr. King’

The Marsh brings Darryl Van Leer’s one man play — featuring King’s “Early Days” sermon, which described the tribulations of the Montgomery bus boycott, along with more of his history-making speeches — to its digital platform for patrons to watch from home.

5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15; 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 16; 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. $15-$35, reservations required. Online event. 415-282-3055.

Darryl Van Leer as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in “The Life of Dr. King.” Photo: Provided by Darryl Van Leer

Justice Through the Trees

Learn how to protect trees and explore the importance of tree equity for climate and social justice in honor of Tu BiShvat and MLK Day. Activities include planting, leaf printing, seed ball making, a scavenger hunt, lemonade making, story time and a live performance from multi-instrumentalist Evie Ladin.

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 16. Free-$20, registration required. JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley. 510-848-0237.

2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Evensong

A celebration and moment of reflection featuring perspectives from interfaith leaders, including the Rev. Sakena Young-Scaggs, Sheryl Evans Davis, Amina Darwish, the Very Rev. Malcolm Clemens Young and the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus.

3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 16. Free, vaccination proof and masks required. Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St., S.F. 415-749-6300.

Stanford Professor Clayborne Carson will moderate a discussion at Grace Cathedral in S.F. Photo: Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle

Grace Forum: King and Faith – Towards Justice

A discussion moderated by Clayborne Carson of the MLK Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford, with the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus and others. At 5:30 p.m., a short selection from King’s 1965 sermon at Grace Cathedral will be projected onto the cathedral facade. The Interfaith Service and Forum will also be available to view as a live stream on Grace Cathedral’s website, along with its Facebook and YouTube channels.

4 p.m. Jan. 16. Free-$10, vaccination proof and masks required. Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St., S.F. 415-749-6300.

MLK Jr. Day of Service and Celebration/Mitzvah Day 2022

Bring to life King’s legacy of community service, justice and equality with various outdoor community projects at the JCC’s Mitchell Park and other locations. Choose and sign up for actions such as native seed planting, making thank-you packages for health care workers or breakfast burritos and hygiene kits for homeless people, visiting elderly Holocaust survivors, tree planting and more.

9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. Free, registration required. Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. 650-223-8700.

Stand! 2022: Celebrating the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

A panel of community organizers plans to share their knowledge of history and current efforts for equity in the local community. In addition, there will be an artist showcase hosted by and spotlighting Black poets and an open mike for registered attendees. Barbecue lunch by Jackie’s Place will be provided.

9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. Free, registration required. School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose.

The Watershed Project: MLK Day of Service on the Richmond Greenway

Help maintain and beautify a bioswale site at Unity Park in Richmond. Please wear a mask and bring a reusable water bottle. Gloves, tools, water and a light lunch will be provided. Learn about the Richmond Wellness bike/pedestrian trail, which connects downtown Richmond to the shoreline. Children accompanied by adult guardians are welcome to attend.

10 a.m.-noon Monday, Jan. 17. Free, registration required. Unity Park Community Plaza, 18th Street and Ohio Avenue, Richmond. 707-726-2829.

Sergio Lemus, a senior at Richmond High School, plants some new native species at Urban Tilth, a community farm in North Richmond. Photo: Nina Riggio / The Chronicle 2015

Passion and Perseverance: A MLK Day Celebration at the North Richmond Farm

Lend a hand around the garden and join in a community gathering in an East Bay urban ecological oasis.

10 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. Free, registration required. Urban Tilth North Richmond Farm, 323 Brookside Drive, Richmond. 510-232-0911.

Uhuru MLK Day Oakland

The event, sponsored by the African People’s Education and Defense Fund and Black Star Industries, is set to begin with a screening of historical footage celebrating civil rights and Black power movement leaders from the 1950s and ’60s. Then participants will go out into the community in teams and deliver flyers with information on how others can help support local African community self-reliance. The event culminates with a pizza lunch, an open mike, prizes and music.

10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. Free, registration required. Akwaaba Hall, 7911 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. 510-763-3342, ext. 3.

San Francisco Black and Jewish Unity Coalition MLK Day March

Join a march in downtown San Francisco in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and human rights. The march is set to begin near the Caltrain Station at Fourth and Townsend and go 1.5 miles, ending at Yerba Buena Gardens. Participants are encouraged to bring their own signs for the event.

10:30-12:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. Free, register online. Meet at 301 Townsend St., S.F. 415-749-6565.

The front of the Museum of the African Diaspora has a mural depicting thousands of faces, which, if viewed from across the street, takes the shape of one face. Photo: Kurt Rogers / The Chronicle

MoAD Virtual MLK Day

The museum will celebrate the national observance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday with free online programming. The virtual event starts with a noontime discussion of  “Freedom! The Story of the Black Panther Party” with authors Jetta Grace Martin and Waldo Martin, moderated by Ula Taylor. “Art As We See It: Civil Rights Through Art and Music,” will feature a MoAD docent presenting pairings of visual art and music of the American civil rights era from 2 to 3:15 p.m. At 3:30 p.m. there will be an art-making workshop focused on silhouettes. Register online for the Zoom link.

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. Free, registration required. Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St., S.F.  415- 358-7200.

Black Comix Arts Festival 22 Expo Showcase

Check out works by featured artists and comics creators, and join in on activities designed to lead patrons back into the in-person BCAF experience. Also included will be film screenings, conversations and workshops with artists and creators in the screening room.

11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 17. Free, vaccination proof and masks required. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 701 Mission St., S.F. 415-978-2787.

Camila Escobar, 5, holds up a sign with a quote from King during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in San Francisco on Jan. 20, 2020. Photo: Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle 2020

Martin Luther King Jr. Virtual Film Festival and Discussion

Get access to the films “A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom,” “At the River I Stand,” “Brick by Brick: A Civil Rights Story,” “Martin Luther King Jr.: Been to the Mountaintop,” “Courageous People Who Changed the World” and “Martin’s Big Words” through Kanopy using your Oakland Public Library card. Then join an online community question and discussion session of the children’s and adult film screenings, facilitated by curator Bamidele Demerson at noon.

Noon-1:45 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. Free, registration required. Online event. 510-637-0200. 

19th annual MLK Day Music Festival

Music in the park with Grammy Award-winning artist Tony Lindsay (formerly of Santana), Les Femmes Fatales and artists from Hip Hop for Change. Arrive early for an interfaith commemoration at 11:45 a.m. led by the San Francisco Interfaith Council.

1-3:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. Free. Yerba Buena Gardens Esplanade, Mission Street between Third and Fourth streets, S.F. 415-543-1718.

Singer Miko Marks is seen inside a Palo Alto studio in 2021. Photo: Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle 2021

MLK22 Celebration Program: Toward Justice

Award-winning African American female journalists Barbara Rodgers, Carolyn Tyler, Cheryl Hurd, Dana King, Kumasi Aaron, Rosie Lee Allen and San Francisco Giants announcer Renel Brooks-Moon plan to discuss issues of the moment. The program will also include performances by Les Femmes Fatales, Miko Marks and comedian Shea Suga.

1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. Free, vaccination proof and masks required. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard St., S.F.

In Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts

Join an online discussion with Rebecca Hall, as she details her search to find stories of women warriors who have been left out of history records. In this conversation she plans to discuss her practice, which she calls “ancestry in progress,” which honors enslaved women’s resistance for an empowered present and imagines resilient Black futures.

6-7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19. Free, registration required. Live stream available on the San Francisco Public Library YouTube channel. 415-557-4400.

Lynne Morrow will conduct the Oakland Symphony Chorus in a Jan. 21 program featuring works by Paul Moravec and Amy Beach. Photo: Sarah Adler

Oakland Symphony and Chorus

Leslie B. Dunner and Lynne Morrow conduct the orchestra and chorus in a program featuring Amy Beach’s American late 19th century “Gaelic Symphony” and the West Coast premiere of an oratorio by Paul Moravec and Mark Campbell, titled “Sanctuary Road,” based on the writings of Underground Railroad conductor William Still. Featured soloists include soprano Hope Briggs, mezzo-soprano Melody Wilson, tenor Noah Stewart, and baritones Damien Geter and Phillip Harris.

8-10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21. $25-$90. Vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. 510-444-0802. 

January Monday Night PlayGround: Keep Moving Forward

PlayGround honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with six original short plays inspired by the prompt “Keep Moving Forward,” drawn from King’s 1960 speech at Spelman College.

7 p.m. Jan. 24. Free. Vaccination proof, masks and reservations are required.  Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley. 415-992-6677.

Image from the S.F. Public Library Exhibition “An Ode to Us.” Photo: SFPL

An Ode to Us: A Celebration of Black Hair

Celebrate creative expression through Black hair styles from Africa to the Bay Area at this interactive exhibition, which includes a selfie wall and features images of popular hairstyles, hairstyle tutorials, personal narratives, poetry and other ephemera used for styling.

Through Jan. 27. Free. African American Center Exhibition Space, S.F. Public Library, main branch, 100 Larkin St., S.F. 415-557-4400.