Home Culture Events + Ways to Give Back in New Jersey for MLK Day 2024

Events + Ways to Give Back in New Jersey for MLK Day 2024

by Hoboken Girl Team
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MLK Day is observed on the third Monday of January each year and this year it falls on January 15th, 2024. Similar to Presidents Day, it’s easy to regard this as a day off from school, from work or enjoyed as a long weekend to catch up on chores. However, it’s important to take a step back and pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the principles for which he lived and died. This national holiday not only celebrates the life and contributions of Dr. King himself but the history of the civil rights movement in the United States. Similarly, another important component of this federal holiday is “The Day of Service,” which encourages all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities, mirroring the teachings of social justice embraced by Martin Luther King, Jr. There are plenty of incredible ways to get involved and pay honor to MLK in North Jersey. Keep reading for a brief history of MLK, his local ties to NJ as well as events happening in the area.

martin luther king jr day 2024 new jersey

The History

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15th, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He is best known as a Baptist minister and social activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. His leadership was fundamental to ending the legal segregation of African Americans in the South and other parts of the country. MLK rose to national prominence as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which promoted nonviolent tactics. Undoubtedly the most popular and influential movement was the massive March on Washington in 1963 Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. The Civil Rights Act was passed a year later in 1964 and was then awarded the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after.  He is considered one of the greatest orators of modern times, and his speeches still inspire many to this day.

Read More: Jersey City Non-Profit Highlight: The York Street Project

Did You Know?

  • King’s Birth Name Was Michael, Not Martin
  • King Entered College at the Age of 15
  • King Received His Doctorate in Systematic Theology
  • King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech Was Not His First at the Lincoln Memorial
  • King Was Imprisoned Nearly 30 Times
  • George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Cesar Chavez are the only other Americans with birthdays observed as a National Holiday
  • MLK was the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964
  • There are over 730 streets in the United States named after Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

MLK’s Ties to New Jersey

According to CityofJerseyCity.org, Dr. King spoke at least twice in Jersey City in the ’60s.  On September 21st, 1965, he received an honorary Doctor of Law from St. Peter’s College. Upon his reception, he gave a speech called “The American Dream” to over 500 people during the annual Michaelmas Convocation — a much-photographed event, and even televised, as Dr. King spoke out against segregation and for equality. Unfortunately, the MLK Jr. Papers Project at Stanford reported it doesn’t have a transcription of the speech, but there are many historical references to its occurrence, including this photo. From first and second-hand accounts, it was noted that he said, “The time is always now,” and postured that legislation is an important part of the civil rights battle. He was also quoted saying that “although legislation could not change a person’s ideas, it could regulate his behavior and restrain the heartlessness.” Citing his own non-violent forms of resistance, he condemned the violence and said it created more problems than it solved, foreseeing a world in which “there will be a symphony of brotherhood.” A world, “where all of god’s children, white and black, Protestant and Catholic, Jew and Gentile, will be free at last.”

The second time Dr. King came to Hudson County was Wednesday, March 27th, 1968 which was less than seven days before his assassination. At this visit, he spoke in front of over 2,000 people at Metropolitan A.M.E. Zion Church. In another noteworthy instance in D.C., King was photographed with Jersey City police officer Charles Jackson during a speech. Officer Jackson was hired as a security coordinator to assist with the event in our nation’s capital.  Today on MLK Boulevard in Jersey City, there stands a large bust of Dr. King.  

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Local MLK Day Events

From the Newark Museum of Art to Jersey Cares, different organizations and places will be hosting events in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Some events require registration and more information can be found through each organization’s website. Keep reading for some of the events taking place in and near New Jersey this weekend and going into next week.

Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Brooklyn Museum | 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn

Monday, January 15th | 10AM – 5PM 

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Visitors can celebrate the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through interactive performances, protest marches, community art programs, and volunteer projects. Each day features shadow puppet performances and puppet-making with Nehprii Amenii, poster-making, and protest marching.

Dr. Martin Luther King March + Rally For Black Liberation in Newark | 495 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Newark

Monday, January 15th | 2PM

The Martin Luther King Jr. March and Rally will be held Monday, January 15th, at 2PM, beginning at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Newark. The event is sponsored by the People’s Organization for Progress. The group has held this march observing King’s birthday annually for nearly 35 years.

Community Day: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at The Newark Museum of Art | 49 Washington Street, Newark

Monday, January 15th | 12PM – 5PM

Participants can jonor Martin Luther King, Jr. with dynamic performances, hands-on activities, and opportunities to help others. There’s something for the whole family. Visitors are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items to support a local food bank, women’s shelter, or church. This is a free event.

Jersey Cares Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service — “I Have A Dream” Walk at Millburn High School Track | 462 Millburn Ave, Millburn

Monday, January 15th | 10AM – 12PM

Community members can come together in solidarity to support the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and social justice causes by walking 2 miles or running a 5K. 50% of all funds raised for this project support the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. Registration for this project is free. This event is appropriate for ages 4+.

MLK Day of Service: Kit Assembly at The Whitney M. Young Jr. School | 135 Stegman Street, Jersey City

Monday, January 15th | 9AM – 10:30AM

Volunteers will create a variety of kits to support nonprofits and schools throughout the state to support community members. Kits include Disaster Preparedness Kits, STEM Kits, and Veteran Hope Packs. All kits will include creative components. Registration for this project is free. This event is appropriate for ages 4+.

Care of the Park in Branch Brook Park | 115 Clifton Ave, Newark

Monday, January 15th | 10AM – 2PM

Volunteers will help beautify Branch Brook Park in Newark by removing the invasive Phragmitie plant from areas of the park. This opportunity is held outside, so dress warmly. Registration for this project is free. This event is appropriate for ages 12+.

2024 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Annual Memorial at Hudson County Community College | 71 Sip Avenue, Jersey City

Thursday, January 18th | 10:30AM – 12PM

The community is invited to join HCCC to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the country’s most inspirational and impactful leaders. Ndaba Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela has been announced to be the event’s special keynote speaker. Mandela is the co-founder and chairman of Africa Rising Foundation. Food and refreshments will be served and registration for the event can be found here.

2024 I Have a Dream 1M 5K 10K 13.1 26.2 — Benefitting Equal Justice Initiative | Virtual

To honor MLK’s accomplishments, the “I Have A Dream” event is back for this year. This 2024 virtual race can be completed any time in January, from anywhere, and at your own pace. The registration fee includes a race medal and bib, plus a portion of the fee will be put towards helping the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization that is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American Society.

Volunteer Opportunities

MLK Day of Service Weekend Snack Pack at Community Baptist Church of Englewood | 224 1st Street, Englewood

January 13th | 12PM

The 2024 MLK Day of Service Weekend Snack Pack event will have volunteers packing snack packs for families facing food insecurity in the community. Registration is required, but space is limited. Email events@cfanj.org or call 201-569-1804 x27 for more information.

Coat Sorting with Jersey Cares | Multiple Locations in New Jersey

January 14th | 12PM – 4PM

For MLK weekend, volunteers will have the opportunity to sort through coat donations in person at Jersey Cares’ container sites. There will be multiple New Jersey sites in Ramsey, Union, Morristown, Garfield, and Freehold. Registration is free and the project is suitable for people aged 14 and up.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Food Drive at Chatham United Methodist Church | 464 Main Street, Chatham

 January 15th | 10AM – 12PM

This year, to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King in observance of MLK Day 2024, Chatham invites the community to come together to change the lives of those of us in need. To participate, donate non-perishable items that are high fiber, low sugar, and low sodium.

See More: Remembering MLK + His Visit to Montclair High School

Martin Luther King Day of Service at JCC of Central New Jersey | 1391 Martine Avenue, Scotch Plains

 January 15th | 10AM – 5PM

Volunteering, learning, and donation opportunities will be available for adults and children throughout Fanwood and Scotch Plains. The opening program at the Scotch Plains/Fanwood YMCA will kick off at 10AM. From 11AM to 5PM, families are then welcome to partake in volunteer opportunities.

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