Listen, watch, read, discuss: How to honor Dr. King

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BOSTON – For many, the third Monday of January is considered a day off from work and school to go skiing, sleep in, or catch a movie. This Martin Luther King Day, why not take some time to learn more about King’s life and the civil rights movement or honor his legacy?  Here are a few suggestions:


Have you ever watched or listened to one of Martin Luther King’s speeches in its entirety? It’s well worth the time, and kids will enjoy listening to the rhythym of  this great orator’s words.

“I Have A Dream” in 1963

“The other America” in 1967

“I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” in 1968 (King’s last speech)



Relax at home, pop some popcorn and watch one or more of these classics:

“Freedom Riders”

Veteran filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s inspirational documentary is the first feature-length film about the courageous band of civil-rights activists. The documentary showcases influential figures on both sides of the issue in this important chapter in American history.


This historical drama depicts a three-month period in 1965 when King and other civil rights leaders  faced violent opposition to their campaign for equal voting rights.  The film begins with King accepting his Nobel Peace Prize, followed by a KKK bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four young girls.  The outstanding performances bring life to a pivotal moment in civil rights history.

“Ruby Bridges”

This Disney movie for children tells the real-life story of one little girl whose strength and dignity during the racially charged 1960s helped change history. At the age of six, Ruby Bridges was the first African-American student to integrate her New Orleans elementary school.  When all the white mothers pulled their children out of class, Ruby was the school’s only student.   Inspired by her faith, her family and her teacher, Boston native Barbara Henry, this little girl ends up teaching the adults in this movie some valuable lessons.

“Mississippi Burning” 

Two FBI agents investigating the murder of civil rights workers during the 1960s work to break the conspiracy of silence in a small southern town where segregation continues to divide black and white. 

“The Rosa Parks Story”

This dramatization tells the story of Rosa Parks, the seamstress whose refusal to give up her seat on the bus sparked the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.


This biographical sports film tells the story of the integration of Major League Baseball by the legendary Jackie Robinson.  The movie follows Robinson from his signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945 through his 1947 rookie season, when he broke the MLB color barrier. 


Educate your children about the life of Dr. King and the struggle for civil rights by reading one of these excellent books together:

“Martin Luther King Jr.: The Pastor Who Had A Daring Dream (Heroes of Faith and Courage)


(Courtesy of Amazon)

Written by Sharon Jones as part of the Heroes of Faith & Courage series, this book reveals how faith influenced King’s the non-violent philosophy and argues that “the few” who speak God’s truth will always prevail against “the many” believing a lie.


“Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.?”


(Courtesy of Amazon)

He was only 25 when he helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott and soon after was organizing black people all across the country in support of basic civil rights. This book, part of the popular “Who was . . .” children’s series, describes Kings life from birth until his assassination in 1968.




Rosa Park Pic Book

(Courtesy of Amazon)

Award-winning poet, writer and activist Nikki Giovanni’s children’s book combines Bryan Collier’s striking cut-paper images to tell the story of the historic event with an original perspective. The book takes place 50 years after Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus.


“Jackie Robinson: American Hero”


(Courtesy of Amazon)

The full-color biography of Jackie Robinson contains both interesting baseball trivia and important historical analysis.  It describes the events surrounding Robinson’s signing and describes how the baseball great navigated the previously all white world of Major League Baseball.  This book is a sports tale and a history lesson all in one cover.



Start a conversation about Dr. King’s legacy and the current state of race relations.   Read a few of the articles below, which are from different political perspectives, and discuss them with family or friends.

— Jonathan Alexandre,  All Black Lives Matter
— Reniqua Allen, The first black president has made it harder to talk about race
— Charles M. Blow, Gun Control and White Terror
— Diane Dimond, What would Martin Luther King say?
— Randall Kennedy, Black America’s Promised Land: Why I am still a racial optimist
— John McWhoter, A better way to honor Dr. King’s dream
— Star Parker, Are MLK’s Christian values welcome today?
— Shelby Steele, The decline of the civil rights establishment
— Adrian Walker, It’s time to banish the racist legacy of Tom Yawkey
— Juan Williams, In the face of racism, black families matter


If you are local to Boston, you might also consider attending one of these events.

Boston Cares Inc.

Boston Cares

Join Boston Cares for a day of service on January 18 honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Boston Cares will provide opportunities for 650 volunteers to support literacy programming in classrooms. Volunteers will create Reading Success Kits for the Lee Academy, Winship Elementary, and Edward Everett Elementary Schools. They hope to create 50 bookshelves, 100 literacy games, 1,250 reading journals, assemble 1,200 grade-specific literacy flashcards and create 180 lapdesks for students to take home. This is a family-friendly event, and children age 5 and up are welcome. Space is limited, so sign up beforehand.

Date and Time: Monday, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Kicks off at 10 a.m. sharp with Emcee Vanessa Welch, new co-anchor for FOX25 News, and Mayor Marty Walsh.

Location: Boston Latin School, 78 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston

Performance at Faneuil Hall


Mayor Marty Walsh, in partnership with the Museum of African American History and the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, will present the “Day of Service and Celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” on Monday at Faneuil Hall. Tributes to Dr. King will feature classical and spiritual pieces performed by BYSO’s Intensive Community Program (conducted by Marta Zurad) and speeches by community leaders. Topper Carew, a civil rights activist, filmmaker, and MIT scholar, will deliver the keynote address.

Date and Time:  Monday, 1 p.m.

Location:  Faneuil Hall


Commemoration of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On Sunday, the Memorial Church Sanctuary at One Harvard Yard in Cambridge hosts the Reverend Dr. Lawrence E. Carter, a professor of religion and dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College.

Date and Time:  Sunday, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Annual Cambridge MLK Day of Service 2016

(Photo courtesy of Mommy Poppins)

(Photo courtesy of Mommy Poppins)

Join Many Helping Hands 365 for an afternoon of hands-on service and projects. Make fleece scarves and blankets for homeless children and adults or Valentines for elders and veterans. You can also sort food, winter clothing, books and toiletries for people in need and more! Don’t come empty handed. Bring a can of food, gently used winter clothing or a children’s book for someone in need.

The event runs from 2-5 p.m. at Central Square, Cambridge, City Hall, Senior Center and the YWCA. Please register beforehand. 


Celebrate! Benkadi Drum and Dance – African Journey

(Photo courtesy of JFK Library)

(Photo courtesy of JFK Library)

Join Celebrate! put on by the Highland Street Foundation at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for a multicultural Benkadi Drum and Dance group. They will perform dances that showcase traditional rhythms and movements from West African countries.

Date and Time:  Monday, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Please register beforehand. 

Contact Beth Treffeisen at [email protected].