Five Ways to Honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Madison

By Shayna Mace | Photo credit: @unseenhistories via Unsplash

This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance on Jan. 18 will be adjusted to accommodate for the pandemic — but still offers much to participate in. In Madison, a free communitywide meal plus virtual events will round out the observance.

In partnership with Overture Center, the Madison Central Business Improvement District, Little John’s and downtown businesses, to-go meals will be served at a few locations around the city on Jan. 18. The meals are available to anyone, and the organizations are aiming to serve 2,500 total meals.

Pickup sites include the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County Allied Family Club (4619 Jenewein Rd.) from 12-5 p.m.; Goodman Community Center (214 Waubesa St.) from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; and the East Madison Community Center (8 Straubel Ct.) from 12-3 p.m.

Tiffany Kenney, executive director of Madison’s Central BID, says the goal of the communitywide meal pickup was to supplement the city’s virtual MLK Day events. Kenney notes that there won’t be a spot to eat the meals in the area as large gatherings are still restricted due to the pandemic.

“The meal is take-and-go and available for anyone. You can take it home and heat it up, but if you’re not able warm it up, it’s still ready to go and eat,” explains Tiffany Kenney, executive director of the Madison Central BID. “It’s about having a community meal.”

To reinforce the communitywide aspect of the meal, Kenney says this week (Jan. 11-17) downtown businesses have been asking customers to add on $5 to their purchase, which helps support the communitywide meal.

“It’s about, how can we help downtown? While people are out shopping or eating, it’s an easy program for the [downtown] businesses to participate in — asking customers to add on $5 to their bill to support the communitywide meal. There’s no reason that people in our community shouldn’t have food on their plates.

More information about the community meal pickup can be found here:

Other Martin Luther King Jr. observance events in Madison include:

  • Women in Focus Dream Ball, Jan. 16

This is the 35th anniversary for this nonprofit that raises money to provide college scholarships for Dane County students of color. The “I Have a Dream” Ball is held each January in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year’s ball is virtual.

  • MLK College Summit, Jan. 16, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Virtual College Summit is designed to help high school students and families understand the college admissions and financial aid process. Register for the free event at

  • Stand for Justice Urban Cabaret Featuring MLK Youth Awards, Jan. 17, 1 p.m.

The Urban League of Greater Madison is premiering the Stand for Justice program, which will include “inspirational stories of triumph and success from 2020, powerful performances by local urban artists and celebration of the 250+ Martin Luther King Jr. Outstanding Young Person Awardees,” according to the release. Tune in to to watch it.

  • MLK Ecumenical Service, Jan. 17, 4:30 p.m.

This virtual event is hosted by the King Coalition in partnership with a “diverse group of faith community leaders,” according to the release. View the online broadcast at

  • City of Madison & Dane County King Holiday Observance, Jan. 18, 6-7 p.m.

This virtual event will feature keynote speaker and New York Times best-selling author Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. According to the King Coalition’s release, “Glaude is known both for his inspiring oratory and ability to convene conversations that engage fellow citizens of all backgrounds — from young activists to corporate audiences looking for a fresh perspective.”

The Observance will also have a presentation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award and a performance by the MLK Community Choir. Instructions on how to access the observance are at

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