MLK Day commemorates the renowned American civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr., and his invaluable contributions to the United States as a nation and the world as a whole. Dr. King was the most prominent leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until he was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. Fifteen years later, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution establishing the third Monday of January a federal holiday, which President Ronald Reagan signed into law on November 2, 1983. MLK Day has been observed every year since 1986.
This year, MLK Day will be celebrated on January 18, 2021.
MLK Day is far from just a day off for students and employees. In fact, it "is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities" (MLK Day of Service official page). This year marks the 26th anniversary of the day of service in honor of Dr. King. As host of the MLK Day of Service, AmeriCorps offers several local and virtual service opportunities every year.
At Pitt, students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to attend MLK Day events and to participate in volunteer opportunities in their communities to observe the spirit of the holiday day.
Find a volunteer opportunity near you!
Thanks to actions by the Black Action Society at the University of Pittsburgh in 1969, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday became a University holiday in 1970. Since then, memorials of MLK's life and legacy and, eventually, MLK Day have been observed by the University community.
Check out this year's events below!
What Just Happened? Race, Justice, and Politics after the Capitol Siege (Virtual Event)
Monday, January 18 at 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Please join the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and the Center on Race and Social Problems for an MLK day #CRSPCast/This is Not Normal crossover forum titled “What Just Happened? Race, Justice, and Politics after the Capitol Siege.” The focus will be the current state of political affairs and their implications for the future of racial justice in the US. Panelists include experts on race and the law, rural education, legislative politics, and racial justice in university settings.
Sponsors: Center on Race and Social Problems and the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Program Welcome by Provost Ann Cudd
James Huguley - Interim Director, Center for Race and Social Problems
Paula Davis - Associate Vice Chancellor, Office of Health Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Clyde Pickett - Vice Chancellor, Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Kristin Kanthak - Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
Thomas Farmer - Professor and Department Chair for Health and Human Development, School of Education
Tomar Pierson-Brown - Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusive Excellence, School of Law
Creating A Just Community Awards Program 2021 (Virtual Event)
Wednesday, January 20 at 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Join us as we recognize the Center for Race and Social Problems and Dr. Yolanda Covington-Ward for their outstanding efforts in creating a more just, equitable, and inclusive Pitt community. This event is open to all and is hosted in conjunction MLK Jr. Social Justice Week.
Center for Race and Social Problems (UPSIDE awardee)
Dr. Yolanda Covington-Ward (MLK. Jr., Creating A Just Community awardee)
Social Justice Symposium: Common Ground for the Common Good: Examining the Past, Healing the Present, Building the Future! (Virtual Event; staff and faculty only)
Thursday, January 21 at 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
This year we not only will feature outstanding breakout sessions to choose from, but we have two keynote speakers who will be joining us to share their stories and expertise.
In the morning, we welcome Dr. Adam Alvarez, an Assistant Professor of Urban Education in the Department of Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Education at Rowan University and proud graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. Featured in Theory into Practice, Equity and Excellence in Education, and Teaching Education, his scholarship contributes to a growing body of research, attempting to shift our institutional approaches toward preparing future educators and researchers to recognize and disrupt longstanding school and social inequalities.
To close the day we will hear from Luis Ortega, a multidisciplinary storyteller, empathy educator, artist, and the founder and director of Storytellers for Change. He is also the producer of the mini-documentaries series “First Gen Students: Change Starts With Your Story,” and his work has been featured at the Harvard DACA Seminar, the Seattle Design Festival, HBO’s “Where Do You Exist?” podcast, and the ArtPlace America National Summit. All of Luis’ work is informed by his personal experience as an immigrant, a commitment to social justice and racial equity, and a belief in the power of radical empathy to build a world of belonging.
Racial Justice and Business Schools (Virtual Event)
Friday, January 22 at 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Paul Harper, clinical assistant professor of Business Administration at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, has coordinated an Academy of Management Racial Justice Web Forum, a five-part series in which the world’s top business scholars examine issues of racial justice at the intersection of business and society. The first forum, “Racial Justice and Business Schools," is set for 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 22.
Harper will join panelists Penelope Muzanenhamo of University College Dublin and Victor Ray of Iowa University in a discussion of the role of race in business school curricula and research valuation. The panel also will address leading diversity and inclusion efforts as well as teaching about racial justice in business schools.
Katz faculty member Sharon Alvarez, Thomas W. Olofson Chair in Entrepreneurship, will co-host this forum.
Repair the World–MLK Day 2021 (Multiple Events)
Friday, January 8th – Tuesday January 19
Join us by participating in one of our volunteer opportunities throughout the weekend, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work.
Friday, January 15 at 8:00 pm
The fifth annual Poetry Unplugged is a night of spoken word and music featuring artists from around the country using the life and work of Martin Luther King as inspiration. This year Poetry Unplugged will be a virtual night of TRUTH and POWER. Mahogany Browne hosts an evening filled with Award-winning spoken word artists known for their fierce delivery and ability to move the crowd. Featured poets include Nikki Giovanni, jessica Care moore, and many more.
Poetry Unplugged is supported by Citizens Bank.
This event includes adult language and themes. Viewer discretion is advised.
Kelly Strayhorn Theatre's (KST'S) MLK Day Celebration, Living the Legacy (Virtual Event)
Monday, January 18th at 3:00 pm
Tune in and share in celebrating King’s legacy in the here and now! This pre-recorded broadcast, Living the Legacy, highlights Pittsburgh artists and activists who are living and working in King’s legacy today.