Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be celebrated Jan. 18 in local communities in various ways, from videos and speakers to a day of service and a drive-in dinner.

This will be the first annual celebration of the Civil Rights leader since last year’s historic racial justice protests that sparked several local forms of racial dialogue. Organizers of local events indicated that the racial dialogues had little effect on planning, but that the pandemic did, resulting in some virtual or distanced versions of annual events.


A virtual panel discussion presented by the Atlanta History Center will bring together authors and local Civil Rights veterans to discuss how King’s imprisonment changed the 1960 presidential election and the country.

Stephen Kendrick and Paul Kendrick, the authors of “Nine Days: The Race to Save Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life and Win The 1960 Election,” will be joined by Charles Black and the Rev. Dr. Otis T. Moss Jr., who were leaders of the Atlanta Student Movement.

Stephen Kendrick is the senior minister of First Church in Boston. Paul Kendrick is a writer whose work has appeared such publications as the New York Times and the Washington Post. Paul Kendrick also serves as executive director of Rust Belt Rising, an organization training Midwest Democrats on connecting with working families and winning elections, and is a former director of the Harlem Children’s Zone College Success Program.

Black graduated from Morehouse College, where he was a chairman of the Atlanta Student Movement. He was one of eight students taught by King. He took part in numerous Atlanta sit-in protests that led to his arrest and jailing.

Moss is a theologian, pastor and a leader in the Atlanta Student Movement.

The free discussion will be held Jan. 18 at 4 p.m. To register, see the History Center website.


Brookhaven’s fifth annual MLK Day Dinner and Program will be held Jan. 18 as a drive-in event at the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe MARTA Station parking lot rather than in its usual location in the historically Black Lynwood Park community.

The “dinner in a bag” and drive-in program will be held in the Apple Valley Road parking lot of the MARTA station, 1268 Apple Valley Road NE, at 5:30 p.m.

The organizers decided to take a tip from some of the car rallies they’ve seen, said City Councilmember Linley Jones.

“We will all be able to hear her speak from our cars while we eat our dinner from our cars. So it’s an old-fashioned, drive-in dinner event,” Jones said. “We’ll have music and musical guests from the Lynwood community and other speakers. It’s really going to be a nice event.”

In normal years, the event has been held at the Lynwood Community Center, the former site of the segregated Lynwood School. Students from Lynwood integrated the DeKalb School system in 1968.

Liane Levatan, a former DeKalb County CEO and Georgia state senator, will be one of the speakers.

In response to last year’s protests, the city agreed to install historical markers in Lynwood Park. The city also formed a Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission.

Tickets to the event are $10 each and can be ordered online. Tickets also can be purchased at Lynwood Community Center, 3360 Osborne Road, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.


The city of Dunwoody will hold a smaller, socially distanced version of its “Day of Service” volunteer activities, and is promoting a food donation drive as part of the commemoration. In addition, a one-day exhibit about King will be on view at a local historic site.

“We’re working hard to provide important volunteer opportunities that are safe and socially distanced,” said Mayor Lynn Deutsch in a press release. “Even in these challenging times, we want to continue our tradition of honoring the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. with community service projects for all ages.”

The Jan. 18 “Day of Service” will include projects at Brook Run Park, the Dunwoody Nature Center and Spruill Center for the Arts. Registration is required to keep groups small for social distancing.

The Dunwoody Preservation Trust will display photos and quotes by King, and a viewing of his famous speech “I Have a Dream.” The commemorative exhibit will be on display on Jan. 16 from 9 a.m. until noon at the Donaldson-Bannister Farm, 4831 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. Admission is $5 for DPT members, $10 for non-members.

The exhibit will be on display in the newly enclosed garage at the Donaldson-Bannister Farmhouse, which is heated and has large openings to the outside for increased air circulation. A limited number of visitors will be allowed entry at a time for social distancing.

A food donation drive called “Souper Bowl of Caring” began Dec. 21 and continues through Jan. 18. It aims to collect 50,000 pounds of food for two local panties, the Community Assistance Center and Malachi’s Storehouse, which have seen enormous demand during the pandemic. The idea of tying the drive to MLK Day came from partner Jack and Jill of America, according to a city spokesperson.

Collection bin locations and hours are listed on the city’s website at

Sandy Springs 

Sandy Springs’ annual MLK Day event will be replaced with a tribute video.

The video will be available on Jan. 18 at and will feature tributes from local children.

The video version is due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that is not the only disease the community must respond to, said Mayor Rusty Paul.

“We are combating two pandemics: one related to the COVID outbreak, the other, the insidious disease of racism,” said Paul. “While a vaccine will help bring the coronavirus under control, we have work to do to eradicate racism in our society,” said Mayor Rusty Paul.

“The pandemic continues to affect traditional city events, but we are excited to utilize our digital presence in tribute of a hero and spread his message of hope and service to others,” said Shaun Albrechtson, executive director of Create Sandy Springs.

After last year’s protests, the city began a series of racial dialogue meetings, and Paul has said he will formally propose a “diversity and inclusion committee” later this month.

–John Ruch contributed

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.