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Honoring and celebrating Dr. King

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Like so many things Dr. Martin Luther King said and did, the push after his assassination to honor his life and legacy with a national holiday was met with some resistance around the country.

A 1979 bill to make King’s birthday a national holiday fell five votes short in the U.S. House of Representatives.

President Ronald Reagan, who initially opposed a national holiday for King, eventually signed it into law in 1983 — 15 years after his assassination — but some states were slow to observe the holiday.

New Hampshire was the last to do so in 1991 with “Civil Rights Day.” (New Hampshire was also the last state to name the holiday after King in 2013.)

South Carolina was the last state to recognize the day as a paid holiday for state employees in 2000. Before that, state employees could choose between observing MLK Day or one of three Confederate holidays.

Below are some local events to honor King this year.

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis will offer free admission to celebrate what would be Dr. King’s 91st birthday. Entertainment will include the Griot Drum Ensemble, storyteller Portia Jackson and vocal performances from Freetown Village.

• Where: Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, 

3000 N. Meridian St.

• When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 20

Conner Prairie

Conner Prairie will offer free admission for MLK Day. Activities include a Peaceful Protest exhibit and a showing of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

• Where: Conner Prairie, 13400 Allisonville Road

• When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 20

Indiana Christian Leadership Conference (ICLC) 

The ICLC, a former affiliate of the original Southern Christian Leadership Conference, will host Rev. Anne Henning Byfield, a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, as the main speaker at a celebration honoring the legacy of Dr. King. Members of the Kheprew Institute will lead the discussion, “Social Justice Movements — Then and Now.” Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department will receive the Drum Major for Justice Award.  

• Where: St John’s Missionary Baptist Church, 1651 Dr. Andrew J. Brown Ave. 

• When: Pre-celebration at 10 a.m.; event at 11 a.m. Jan. 20

Indiana Historical Society

The Indiana Historical Society will have a free day of programs and performances at the Indiana History Center. Guests will learn about civil rights prior to Dr. King’s time, as well as Madam C.J. Walker’s activism.

• Where: Indiana History Center, 450 W. Ohio St.

• When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 20

Indianapolis Public Schools

The Indianapolis Public Schools Racial Equity Office will have its 39th annual tribute to Dr. King with a program 10-11 a.m. Jan. 20 at Crispus Attucks High School.

Brandon Cosby, CEO of Flanner House, will be the keynote speaker, and IPS spokesperson Carrie Cline Black will serve as emcee. Rev. Carlos Perkins of Bethel Cathedral African Methodist Episcopal Church will deliver the message. The Crispus Attucks choir and Newcomer School Music Group will perform.

The theme for this year’s event is “The Urgency of NOW!”

• Where: Crispus Attucks High School, 1140 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St.

• When: 10-11 a.m. Jan. 20

Madam Walker Legacy Center

Begin by participating in the Celebration Freedom March outside the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, 543 Indiana Ave., to the Walker Theatre, 617 Indiana Ave. Kevin D. Richardson, one-fifth of the Exonerated Five and criminal justice reform advocate, will be the guest.

• Where: Madam Walker Legacy Center, 617 Indiana Ave.

• When: 10 a.m.-noon Jan. 20 

Lawrence United Methodist Church

Physician and Democratic candidate for Indiana governor Woodrow Myers will be the keynote speaker at Lawrence United Methodist Church’s annual observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The event will also include winners of an essay-writing contest amongst fifth grade students in Lawrence Township, as well as music from St. Lawrence Catholic Church and Lawrence United Methodist Church.

• Where: Lawrence United Methodist Church, 5200 N. Shadeland Ave.

• When: 6 p.m. Jan. 20

White River State Park

Partnering with Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, White River State Park is offering free admission into several attractions, including the Indiana State Museum and the NCAA Hall of Champions, in exchange for a donation of a nonperishable food item. 

Indiana State Museum

Visitors can hear Dr. King’s speeches and learn about the fight for civil rights. Visitors can write on the “Dream mural” and reflect on what individuals can do to keep Dr. King’s dream alive. 

• Where: Indiana State Museum, 650 W. Washington St.

• When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 20

NCAA Hall of Champions

Guests can visit the newest exhibit, “Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Making an Impact,” which celebrates the rich histories of historically Black schools.

• Where: NCAA Hall of Champions, 700 W. Washington St. 

• When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Jan. 20

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