6 kid-friendly ways to honor MLK Day in Philadelphia

     Volunteers painting the walls at MLK High School during the 2014 MLK Day of Service. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

    Volunteers painting the walls at MLK High School during the 2014 MLK Day of Service. (Bas Slabbers/for NewsWorks)

    Many schools are closed on Jan. 19 in observance of the birthday of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Philadelphia was the original location of the MLK Day of Service, and is now developing into a day with multiple ways to honor the diversity of  Dr. King’s legacy.


    Here are some highlights of child-friendly ongoings around the city including opportunities for service, learning, and action.

    A day of service

    Since it was not designed to be a day “off” many schools and community organizations offer families opportunities to serve.

    The Day of Service website is designed to connect interested families all over the region with appropriate service activities. The website is searchable by location, type of activity desired and child appropriateness.

    Some activities being offered across the city include the following. 

    Germantown Ave. Business Alliance school supplies drive 

    Bring highlighters, dry erase markers, facial tissues, sticky notes, hand sanitizer and anything else teachers can use to the Color Book Gallery Bookstore at 6353 Germantown Ave. Donations will go to Lingelbach Elementary and Roosevelt Middle schools. Donations will be accepted between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

    Unitaritan Society of Germantown Houses for Change 

    Kids ages 10 and older can decorate “Houses for Change” and engage in letter writing for the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

    Eastern State Penitentiary art for King 

    Professional actors read excerpts from King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” three times per day from Saturday through Monday (free tickets required). An informal question and answer session moderated by a civil rights scholar follows each reading, giving visitors an opportunity to respond to the letter’s relevance today.

    In partnership with Art Sanctuary, children ages 7 to 12 and their families can create art in response to themes found in Dr. King’s letter. Activities are available from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, free and open to the public. No reservations required for art activity.

    If you’re planning to attend any of the service events, please check the MLK Day website to register and ensure that there are still spaces. 

    A day of learning

    For families wanting to learn more about Dr. King, there are two wonderful opportunities.

    “Selma” for students 

    An amazing opportunity for seventh, eighth and ninth graders across Philadelphia to see the new film “Selma” for free from now through MLK Day on Jan. 19. Students must show their student ID or report card at the box office of any participating theater to receive their free tickets. There are seven participating theaters in the Philadelphia area, but students should secure tickets now…New York has already sold out!

    ‘Pray & Sing with Dr. King’ at the St. Martin’s in the Fields Church 

    This hands-on, intergenerational celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King will explore the deep Christian faith that inspired The Rev. Dr. King’s work on peace and racial justice. Participants will learn some of his favorite hymns, dive into Bible stories that inspired his work and engage with issues that he would speak out on today. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    A day of action, resistance and empowerment

    For families wanting to channel Dr. King’s legacy around activism, there is a march designed to “reclaim” the day as a call for social justice. This large march is being organized by the MLK D.A.R.E. (Day of Action, Resistance, and Empowerment) Coalition. D.A.R.E. is advocating for concrete changes in Philadelphia regarding education, economics, and law enforcement.

    The Coalition is made up of faith leaders, labor unions, parent groups, college and high school students and grassroots activist organizations. These groups will be marching together downtown from the school district headquarters to Independence Mall.

    Although this is a large march, there will be a child/family-friendly contingent of the march organized by family activist groups in Philadelphia. This group will march together with child-friendly activities, songs and chants. Balloons will help adults spot the children in the crowd and members of the Philadelphia Childcare Collective will help to guide and buffer the families within the larger march.

    Families interested in marching with other families should meet at the corner of Broad & Spring Garden at 1:15 p.m. Click here for more information.

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