Rather than take this day off, take the opportunity to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by observing Dr. King’s legacy of activism, awareness, service, and respect. King day is the perfect way to introduce the family to both a troubling and inspiring piece of our country’s history. Here are our top 12 ways to pay homage to the man and celebrate his lasting message of diversity and love this weekend.

drking.jpg.exportingphoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

1. Make your way over to the California African American Museum for their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. There will be fun for the whole family beginning with kid’s art workshops where everyone can make a dream catcher filled with their dreams for a better world or contribute to the community peace garden exhibition. There will also be a discussion about women activists during the civil rights movement and a study of Dr. King’s speeches. Plus, there will also be food so you can spend the day soaking in positive energy, good food, and community.

kingparadephoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

2. Bring your young leaders out on Monday, Jan. 15 to the 33rd Annual Kingdom Day Parade, which happens to be the largest parade in the nation in celebration of Dr. King. The parade route runs along Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and Western to Crenshaw and Vernon in Leimert Park. The celebration will include marching bands, drill teams, local organizations, and lots of floats. The theme this year is “When They Go Low, We Go High.” Bring out the littles to support the community and honor the high road.

3. If you want to catch a parade on the weekend, grab your camping chairs and head down to Long Beach for a front row seat for the annual Peace and Unity Parade and Celebration. The parade is on Saturday, Jan. 13 and begins at Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave. and Anaheim St. and ends at Martin Luther King Jr. Park for an afternoon music festival. Free parking and shuttles are available to get you to and from the parade.

4. On Saturday, Jan. 13 pop over to the Westside for a special presentation of Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra’s Martin Luther King Weekend Concert. In honor of the great man, this event is free and will include Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and Duke Ellington’s “Black, Brown and Beige” among other pieces. The concert will be held at the SGI Auditorium in Santa Monica and begins at 2:00 p.m.

5)  LACMA will be hosting a free day on Monday, Jan. 15 so you can celebrate dreams and diversity through art. The museum will be offering bilingual tours, a family sketching activity and live music with Diana Purim and Eyedentity at 12:30 and 2:45 p.m. Plus, there are all the family favorites like the Boone Children’s Gallery, Chris Burden’s Metropolis II, and the Levitated Mass.

photo: Autry Museum of the American West

6. Head out to Autry Museum of the American West and soak in the La Raza Exhibition. La Raza was a bilingual newspaper published from 1967-1977 and was influential in the Chicano Rights Movement. While this exhibition doesn’t focus on Dr. King, the Chicano movement was most definitely influenced by this great man’s work. Take a walk through with the littles and view the newspaper’s photography that served as a powerful artistic medium and political tool.

7. The Pasadena MLK Community Coalition will be hosting a series of events beginning Jan. 6th that include poetry readings, ess, y and art presentations, a day of service and a church service. The events will all lead up to their annual MLK Day Celebration on Jan. 15. The culminating festival in Altadena will include guest speakers, community breakfast, arts, and crafts and helpful, wholesome fun. Be sure to check their website for details.

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

8. It is good to be reminded that MLK Day is also honored as the National Day of Service. Turn this day off into a day “on” and get in the spirit of giving. The Pasadena MLK Coalition is hosting a day of service at Webster Elementary School on Jan. 13. L.A. Works will be hosting their annual Day of Service on Jan. 15 (that includes great music and music to help push the family through the day) at Lincoln High School. And if you want to get into the great outdoors, check out the White Point Nature Preserve’s annual King Day volunteer opportunity in the Alta Vicente Reserve.

photo: Kidspace Children’s Museum

9. Join the celebration at Kidspace Children’s Museum for Unity Days, taking place all weekend and Monday, too. Celebrate the message of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a community, by spending the day working together. There will be collaborative art projects, story sharing. You can even make a kindness stone to share a message of love and acceptance with those around you.

10. It will be worth the drive to Irvine to join the folks at Pretend City for their annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. Here your everyone can have an open conversation about the importance of diversity and respecting everyone’s differences. The family can take part in story time, music and movement and art projects that include self-portraits and the peace dove to keep up the discussion of kindness and respect.

photo: Children’s Book World

11. Children’s Book World will be hosting two book signings on Saturday, Jan. 13 in honor of equality. At 10:30 a.m. author Roda Ahmed will present her book Mae Among the Stars, all about young Mae Jemison who would become the first African-American woman to travel in space. At 2:30 p.m., Vashti Harrison will present Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. The book covers greats like abolitionist Sojourner Truth and pilot Bessie Coleman to name a few. This is a great way to get the kids into the spirit of change.

photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith

12. Another great way is to get outside and visit one of our many majestic National Parks. The National Park services open its doors for free on MLK Day. Get outside or enjoy one of our national monuments and bask in the beauty and history of this nation. Dr. King’s dream included inclusion for all. We think honoring these protected sites that exist for all is a perfect way to honor his memory.

What will your family do on MLK Day? We’d love to hear your plans in the comment section!

—LeTania Kirkland Smith