On June 5, 1963, an interracial crowd overflowed what is now the University of Saint Francis Performing Arts Center in downtown Fort Wayne, and waited anxiously for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to take the podium. His visit to our city was faced with plenty of adversity, as were many other facets of the Civil Rights Movement, yet Fort Wayne activists kept on fighting.

Throughout the 1960s, NAACP Youth marched outside of Northcrest shopping center to protest non-hiring of African Americans, the Ministerial Alliance led boycotts and walks down Calhoun to fight Fort Wayne Community School segregation, and other Civil Rights activists demonstrated outside of the Allen County Courthouse to display treatment of minorities in the community. 

"Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
 

To celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—one of the most influential leaders of the civil rights movement—we challenge you to immerse yourself in the community and make a difference!

6 Ways to Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Fort Wayne

1. Attend Dr. King Unity Day

Join the Martin Luther King, Jr. Club for a day of “creating community connections.”

Speakers at the 35th Annual Dr. King Unity Day Celebration include author Nic Stone; Dr. Rudy Kachmann, MD; and Pastor Lewis A. King from Fort Wayne UNITED's TenPoint Coalition. Expect incredible performances and engaging discussions, as well as vendors, health screenings, and more.

The event will take place at the Grand Wayne Convention Center. For details and ticket information, visit the MLK Club Facebook page or call (260) 493.1534. 

2. Visit the African / African-American Historical Society Museum

The AAAHSM (aka “AWESOME”) displays Fort Wayne’s largest public collection of African Art and showcases many historic items and documents.

Be sure to check out their Civil Rights movement room that commemorates MLK and many others who joined his fight.

Located at 436 E. Douglas Ave., the museum is open by appointment only. Schedule a tour.

3. Participate in the University of St. Francis' MLK Day of Service

While many people have the day off, you will find USF students and faculty taking a day ON! They invite everyone in the community to join them for a special lecture from guest speaker Chris Singleton. A former professional baseball player for the Chicago Cubs, and the son of one of the nine victims killed at Emanual AME in 2015, Singleton is now an inspirational speaker spreading the message that "Love is stronger than hate." 

New this year, the University of Saint Francis will extend its MLK Day celebration into its first MLK Week. You can join a special screening of Selma on Tuesday, January 21 at the Jefferson Pointe AMC.

For a full itinerary and more information, visit their web page.

4. Selma at the Embassy Theatre

The Embassy Theatre is kicking off a series of 6 FREE films from January to August that inspire us and spark conversation. The first of the series is a special screening of Selma, a chronicle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s campaign to secure equal voting rights through the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. See the movie at the historic Embassy Theatre on January 20 at 5pm.

5. MLK Day Activities at the Library

Visit the Pontiac Branch of the Allen County Public Library for showings of the Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have a Dream" speech throughout the day on January 20. There will also be self-directed crafts to enjoy.

You can also explore the nation's largest public genealogy collection at the Allen County Public Library's Main Branch downtown. The Genealogy Center is the perfect place to research African American historical records, or begin a deep dive into discovering your own lineage and family history.

6. Find a Volunteer Opportunity! 

Join the millions of others doing service in their community to fulfill MLK’s vision of a better America.

There are many nonprofits in Fort Wayne that welcome new volunteers and donations.

To find an opportunity that fits your skills and interests, check out the national database for the MLK Day of service.

*This post was originally published in December 2018 and has been updated.