With so much changed this past year, it can be hard finding family activities to safely engage in that still honor the memory and the teachings of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend. Yet in a time when those teachings are so needed, we wanted to make sure you can find ways to do just that. Here are our top picks for virtual, at-home, and socially distant plans you can make this year.
This MLK Day, consider introducing your little ones to Doctor King with a copy of I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Metzer. The bestselling novelist and comic writer teamed up with illustrator Christopher Eliopoulos for a series of biographical picture books ideal for a first meeting with historical figures such as King. Cute and accessible, the pages are also filled with detailed information.
Older kids may also enjoy Who Was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? from the classic middle-grades biography and history series, or the graphic novel trilogy March by the late MLK contemporary and former U.S. representative John Lewis.
All things considered, it’s a lot easier to get multiple children to settle down on the couch for a movie than it is for joint reading time. While many of our MLK Day movie recommendations would be a bit mature for the whole family, we highly recommend 1999’s direct-to-video time travel classic Our Friend, Martin:
The story follows two sixth-graders with very little respect or understanding for the civil rights movement who end up traveling through time to meet Martin Luther King, Jr. at various periods in the leader’s life. The all-star cast features appearances by Dexter and Yolanda King (portraying their father and aunt, respectively), as well as LeVar Burton, Jaleel White, Ed Asner, Angela Bassett, Danny Glover, Whoopie Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson, James Earl Jones, Ashley Judd, Susan Sarandon, John Travolta, and Oprah Winfrey.
At just over an hour, it’s an easy and excellent introduction into some of the more important events and goals of King’s life without feeling as emotionally heavy as films like Selma, and it’s readily available to stream online.
For the older crowd, King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis is also available to stream online for free, via Kanopy, with any active Westchester library card.
On Friday, Feeding Westchester kicks off the celebrations early with two different ways to help serve the Westchester community. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Elmsford, the organization will hold a Drive-Thru Food Drive to collect non-perishable foodstuffs to help reduce and end food insecurity in the county. Residents can also drop off pre-made Help From Home bags through January 22 as part of the group’s ongoing virtual service project.
African American Men of Westchester will also be holding its annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Youth Awards Luncheon at noon, in a virtual celebration this year. The awards ceremony honors King’s messages and legacy of hope and unity by recognizing four young Westchester students who represent these ideals through acts of service and leadership within their communities, and rewarding them with $2,500 academic scholarships. This year’s ceremony will include remarks by local political, economic, and cultural leaders like NY Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, County Executive George Latimer, and Deputy County Executive Ken Jennings. Registration is free, though donations are accepted.
If you’re looking to give back to the community yourself, Volunteer New York! has once again organized an MLK Day of Service beginning this Saturday at 3 p.m. with a free webinar titled “Volunteering With Equity in Mind,” discussing how to advocate for members of our communities. Then on Sunday, come ’round the table for a virtual “Sunday Super” discussion in small groups on timely topics hosted by the organization’s facilitators. Registration for both events is free. The org will also be hosting various outdoor volunteer events on Saturday and Monday for those who want to get a little more hands-on.
The Mid-Hudson Valley chapter of Jack and Jill of America will also be teaming up with CHOPP — Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill — for a food drive drop-off on Monday between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at Fred’s Pantry, located at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. While additional food donations are needed for this event, volunteers are always needed, so you can fill out a volunteer application online or contact them for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org; 845.260.1236.
MLK Day is also a free entrance holiday at all National Parks. While we might be a ways away from the likes of Yosemite, “national parks” technically includes more local spots like the Armour-Stiner “Octagon” House, Old Croton Aqueduct, Sleepy Hollow’s Old Dutch Church, Lyndhurst, Kykuit/ the John D. Rockefeller Estate, Philipse Manor Hall, Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, the Elephant Hotel of Somers, and plenty more. Many are observing limited visitation with COVID-19 health precautions in place, so make sure to check with the indoor venues before planning a family outing.
Read More: The Eight-Sided Wonder of Westchester