How to Celebrate Martin Luther King Day in the Bay Area

Martin Luther King

The legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. continues to shape our understandings of justice and civil rights in America. This year, the holiday honoring the activist falls squarely on his birthday, January 15. Here’s our list of Bay Area events to mark the holiday, celebrate BIPOC innovation and participate in the fight toward racial equity.

MLK Celebration Concert

Jan 12

The War Memorial Herbst Theatre hosts its third annual MLK Celebration concert, titled Social Justice and Beloved Community: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Put together by the NorCal MLK Community Foundation and the San Francisco HRC, the concert elevates musicians who advocate for justice, peace and equality. Performing artists include Lalah Hathaway, Aisha Fukushima, Prentice Powell & Shawn William and Robin J. Williams & Peace Gospel Choir.

25th Annual Marin City Dr. MLK Jr. Celebration

Jan 15

The Marin City Community Service District presents the 25th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration. This celebration will feature gospel music, spoken word and a keynote address from Rev. Dr. Veronica Goines, the former longtime pastor of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Marin City. Celebrants can gather at the Marin City Community Center at 630 and 640 Drake Avenue from 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. A lunch service will follow. For more information, contact Florence Williams at (415)332-1441.

Liberation Film Festival

Jan 13–15

The Liberation Film Festival screens thought-provoking documentary and film to inspire social change and reflection. The festival is organized in partnership with California Newsreel, a non-profit documentary center which distributes film for social and racial justice. Screenings are free at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Screening Room.

The Black & Brown Comix Arts Festival

Jan 13–15

For ten years, the Black & Brown Comix Arts Festival (BCAF) has celebrated BIPOC creativity in the comic arts. Panel discussions, a party at the Cartoon Art Museum and a grand expo are the highlights of this three-day event. Also, 2024’s BCAF introduces the Cosplay Soirée, a 21+ evening where comics enthusiasts can connect while dressed in costume.

MLK March and Music Festival

Jan 15

People gather for the Martin Luther King concert in San Francisco
Photo by SteveCho.

Every year, Bay Area residents honor the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, with their own march. The route begins at 11 a.m. and winds from the Caltrain station to the Yerba Buena Gardens, where the MLK Music Festival follows. Then from 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., visitors can enjoy a free performance on the Esplanade Stage. Transit to the event will be free with registration if you’re taking Caltrain, BART, SFMTA or Golden Gate Ferries.

MLK Day of Action at Cal Academy

Jan 15

Youth Action for the Planet (YAP) is a climate advocacy and education movement which organizes young people around environmental action. On MLK Day, YAP will host a day of learning and action for racial justice in local environmental issues. Middle and high schoolers are invited to participate.

Oakland Day of Service

Jan 13–20

Congress classifies MLK Day not just as a federal holiday but as a day of service. Oakland promotes multiple opportunities to give back this MLK weekend through trash cleanup, habitat restoration, blood drives and more. An interactive map is available to see where and when community service events occur.