Martin Luther King Jr. had a special connection to Chicago: He’d lived here, worked here, and the city was a part of a critical next phase of the civil rights movement.
And on the eve of the national holiday, the city is buzzing with events to celebrate his life and legacy.
From service opportunities, to basketball, to movies, here are seven MLK Day activities to consider this weekend.
Be of service
This Monday is not just a day out of the office for many. Instead, it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service — “a day on, not a day off” an opportunity to roll up your sleeves and get to work in your neighborhood. And in honor of the day, local organizations such as City Year Chicago, which serves students in Chicago Public Schools, and the University of Chicago’s University Community Service Center, along with its partners, have set up events for volunteers. More volunteer opportunities are available at MLKDay.gov.
Give at the United Center and MB Ice Arena
The Chicago Blackhawks Foundation and local nonprofit Cradles to Crayons Chicago are hosting a collection drive for new and gently used toys and children’s winter clothing. The foundation will collect donated items at MB Ice Arena (1801 W. Jackson Blvd.) from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 21. Blackhawks fans attending the home games on Sunday, Jan. 20 and Tuesday, Jan. 22 can also drop off donations as they enter the United Center.
Watch some of the best hit the court at Marshall High School
The 18th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Dream Classic basketball tournament takes place this weekend at Marshall Metropolitan High School (3250 W. Adams). Created by Women Basketball Association Hall of Fame recipient and nine-time championship high school coach Dorothy Gaters, the event features 37 high school basketball teams from throughout the region, including Marshall, Simeon Career Academy, and Corliss High School. The three-day tournament will be held from Jan. 19 through Jan. 21.
Check out special collections at the Stony Island Arts Bank
On Monday, Jan. 20, the Stony Island Arts Bank (6760 S. Stony Island Ave.) will pull select materials from its special collections and screen rare footage and films celebrating King’s life and legacy, such as director Ava Duvernay’s award-winning Selma and The Spirit & Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., a compilation of rare 1955 to 1968 footage featuring King and his fellow activists.
Watch performances at Black Ensemble Theater
The African American Arts Alliance of Chicago is hosting its 8th Annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration on Monday, Jan. 21 at Black Ensemble Theater (4450 N. Clark St.). The event is a performance and marketing fair promoting the city’s black arts community, including performances by Muntu Dance Theater,
John The Author (spoken word), and excerpts of Black Ensemble founder Jackie Taylor’s 2017 show, “The Black Renaissance (A Musical Resistance Against Racism).”
Make art and watch movies at the Hyde Park Art Center
The Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S Cornell Ave.) will be bustling on Monday, Jan. 21 with art making, math games, performances, and curator-led tours. Plus, visitors can watch films about math and science geniuses (Hidden Figures and The Man Who Knew Infinity) plus civil rights documentaries (The March and Brother Outsider).
Head to a free museum
The Adler Planetarium, the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium are all free for Illinois residents on Monday, Jan. 21. The Chicago History Museum is free for all that day (out-of-state residents included) and the Chicago Cultural Center is free, as always.
And at MSI, you can catch something new: Its “Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition” is now open through Feb. 24 and features more than 100 works from both professional and amateur African-American artists from around the country. Chicago artist Shala will be there to guide guests in a collaborative art piece.
Arionne Nettles is a digital producer at WBEZ covering arts and culture. Follow her on Twitter at @arionnenettles.