By Lisa Kava
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal holiday honoring the iconic civil rights leader who advocated for racial equality, falls on the third Monday in January each year. (Dr. King’s actual birthday was January 15th.) This year, the holiday will be observed on Monday, January 16th. Banks and schools will be closed. Here are some ways to commemorate it on the Upper West Side and in Central Park.
Eighth-grade students from Manhattan Country School, at 150 West 85th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam, are planning a march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Called “The Power of Awareness: A March for Justice and Change,” it will take place on January 16th from 10 AM – 2 PM. Participants will stop at the Harriet Tubman Memorial, Frederick Douglass Circle, The Cathedral of St John the Divine, the Joan of Arc Monument, and the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial. At each stop, the eighth graders, who are the oldest students in the school, will give speeches about social justice issues including; systemic racism, the rise of antisemitism, access to mental health services, the climate crisis, and the assault on the LGBTQ community. The march was started in 1989 by a group of parents and has become an annual event. In 1999, students at the school took the initiative to organize the march and have been leading it ever since. To join, meet at 10 AM at the Harriet Tubman Memorial at West 122nd Street off Saint Nicholas Avenue.
For those who wish to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy while spending time in Central Park, special tours will be hosted by The Central Park Conservancy in honor of the holiday. Beginning on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend and continuing into February, conservancy guides will lead the tours, speaking about activism that has taken place in Central Park over the years. Visitors will see “sites…where New Yorkers protested the Vietnam War, and discuss the civic movement that led to the installation of the Women’s Rights Pioneers monument.” According to a Conservancy spokesperson, visitors will be guided through a “variety of landscapes throughout the park, including iconic locations like Naumburg Bandshell as well as some hidden gems.” Advance registration is required and each ticket costs $35 (There is a 20% discount for CPC members.) A virtual tour will take place on Friday, January 13th at 2 PM. In-person tours will be held on the following dates:
Saturday January 14th at 11:00 AM
Saturday January 21st at 2:00 PM
Friday January 27th at 11:00 AM
Thursday February 16 at 11:00 AM
Sunday February 19th at 11:00 AM
The Central Park Conservancy will also host a Seneca Village tour at 11:00 AM on Sunday, January 15th. Seneca Village, on the west side of Central Park between 82nd and 89th Streets, was one of New York’s first communities of black property owners settled in the 1820’s. But the Seneca Village story ends in 1856-1857, when the community was razed to make way for the construction of Central Park. Conservancy guides will speak about the history of Seneca Village and its residents. “Visitors will read the physical landscape of Seneca Village to understand the particular value it provided to Black New Yorkers seeking refuge from the crowded conditions and racial discrimination prevalent in early 19th century NYC.”
Tickets for all Central Park Conservancy tours can be purchased by clicking this link.
The Apollo Theater at 253 West 125th Street is hosting its 17th annual Apollo Uptown Hall MLK celebration on January 15th at 3 PM. The event is presented in partnership with the public radio station WNYC. Kai Wright, WNYC’s “Notes from America” host will moderate a program followed by “music, spoken word, and other forms of creative expressions with WQXR’s Terrance McKnight.” Other participants in the celebration include: Brian Lehrer, host of WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer call-in show, musicians Damien Sneed and Chauncey Parker, The Harlem Chamber Players, and the vocal ensemble Dream Launchers. Click here for tickets. The event is free. For those unable to attend in person there will be a livestream broadcast on both Facebook and YouTube.