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Five ways San Francisco will recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks before a crowd of 25,000 Selma to Montgomery civil rights marchers on March 25, 1965. | Getty Images

While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is coming up on Sunday, Jan. 15, the third Monday of the month serves as the national holiday observing his legacy as a crucial figure in the continual fight for civil rights, social justice and equity.

These five San Francisco-based events commemorate the occasion by uplifting the voices of people of color through music, art, discussion and activism. 

1. MLK2023 Music Festival 

🗓️ Monday, Jan. 16
🕔 12 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
📍 Mission St. between Third & Fourth Streets
🔗 Link

The MLK2023 Music Festival offers an afternoon of powerful musical and spoken-word performances in the Yerba Buena Gardens’ outdoor Esplanade stage. The event is part of a greater roster of MLK ‘23 celebrations, hosted by the Northern California Martin Luther King Jr. Community Foundation. Highlights include multi-Grammy Award-winning artist Tony Lindsay, known as the longtime lead vocalist of Santana, and San Francisco’s eighth Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin.

2. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service

🗓️ Monday, Jan. 16
🕔 11 a.m-5 p.m.
📍 685 Mission St.
🔗 Link

If you continue your day in the SoMa neighborhood, enjoy free admission to programs and exhibitions at the Museum of African Diaspora in recognition of the holiday. Walk through the space immersing yourself in works and performances that embody the importance of diverse creative voices in the arts. The day concludes with a screening of For Love and Legacy, a short documentary by A.K. Sandhu about a memorial dedicated to the founder of the Black Panther Party, Huey P. Newton.

3. The Black & Brown Comix Arts Festival

🗓️ Sunday, Jan. 15-Monday, Jan. 16
🕔 Various scheduled times
📍 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
📍 Cartoon Art Museum
🔗 Link

The Black & Brown Comix Arts Festival, an annual feature of San Francisco’s events honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, celebrates creative voices of color in comic arts, which has long lacked representation. This family-friendly event filled with expos, film screenings, panels and more is free to the public. It takes place over two days, divided between the Yerba Buena Center of the Arts in SoMa and the Cartoon Art Museum by Fisherman’s Wharf.

4. 2023 Caltrain NorcalMLK Celebration Train 

🗓️ Monday, Jan. 16 
🕔 8:30 a.m.-11 a.m.
📍 All over Bay Area
🔗 Link

For commuting Bay Area residents looking to make their way into San Francisco for the day, Caltrain is providing free transportation to events during the morning starting as far south as San Jose. As a bonus, NorcalMLK is partnering with other regional transportation agencies to help people access events, as well. This means BART is offering cost-free MLK BART Passes for round-trip travel to celebrations in the city, and the same goes for Muni, as well as ferry rides for those coming from Marin. 

5. The MLK2023 March

🗓️ Monday, Jan. 16 
🕔 Starts at 11 a.m.
📍 From San Francisco Caltrain Station to Yerba Buena Gardens
🔗 Link

San Francisco’s MLK2023 march honors the impact of King, as well as historic marches from Selma to Montgomery. Part of the route includes a symbolic crossing of the Lefty O’Doul Bridge for a stop at Willie Mays Plaza at Oracle Park. The bridge-crossing commemorates the 1965 crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, which led to shocking violence against protesters and radically changed the public’s perception of the civil rights movement.

Morgan Ellis can be reached at