11 ways to celebrate MLK Day in Birmingham—including volunteer opportunities

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr. (Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on Facebook)

Birmingham is full of significant history, especially when it comes to the Civil Rights movement. This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day falls on Monday, January 17th, but there are events taking place all weekend to celebrate, learn, honor and serve. Keep reading for more ways you can get involved this MLK Day.

1. 2022 MLK Day 5K Drum Run

Lace up your sneakers and bring the whole family to the 6th annual MLK Day 5K Drum Run. The 5K will start at 8AM and this year a 1 mile fun run/walk has been added for ages 12 and under. Drumlines from the Birmingham metro area schools will be lined up along the race course so you can run to the beat of your own drum.

  • When: Sat. January 15th | 7AM (8AM 5K start time, 9AM 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk)
  • Where: Start and finish at 1700 4th Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35203 located in the Fourth Avenue Historic District of Birmingham’s Civil Rights District
  • What to bring: Your running shoes
  • Register today— $35.00 beginning 01/01/2022 till race day, $40.00 on race day 01/15/2022

2. Alabama Audubon’s 4th Annual MLK Day Habitat Restoration

Get ready for a day of outdoor cleanup and service. You’ll work with Alabama Audubon to help remove invasive plant species from the property trails, along with trail maintenance and general upkeep for the outdoor classroom on site.

  • When: Mon. January 17 | 9AM â€“ 1PM
  • Where: Audubon-Datnow Forest Preserve at Birmingham’s W.E. Putnam Middle School (1757 Montclair Road)—meet at main parking lot
  • What to bring: Work gloves—they will have a few extra on hand; pruning shears, pruning saws or loppers if you have them
  • Pre-registration required before Friday, Jan.14 at 12PM—sign up here

3. Book Drive for Books2Prisons

Help bring books to incarcerated individuals from Alabama to Texas. YouthServe is hosting a Book Drive on MLK Day from 10AM-2PM. The most requested books are dictionaries and Stephen King novels. You can support local by shopping through Thank You Books wishlist, or through this Amazon Wishlist. Important note: Please only shop from the approved wishlists, paperbacks only.

4. Black Warrior Riverkeeper MLK Day Cleanup

Black Warrior Riverkeeper cleanup
Black Warrior Watershed cleanups in 2021. (Black Warrior Riverkeeper Watershed)

Help Black Warrior Riverkeeper clean up various areas within the Five Points West community. Garbage bags, gloves, hand sanitizer and light refreshments will be provided.

  • When: Mon. January 17th | 10AM-3PM | 2 shifts available: 10AM-1PM; 1PM-3PM
  • Where: Birmingham CrossPlex, 2337 Bessemer Road, Birmingham, AL—All volunteers will check-in at the tent setup at the Horticulture building behind the Birmingham Crossplex
  • What to bring: Comfortable, warm clothing that you do not mind getting a little wet or dirty (preferably long pants), mask, closed-toed shoes
  • Register for free

5. 3rd Annual I Have A Dream virtual race

Screen Shot 2022 01 10 at 11.25.01 AM 11 ways to celebrate MLK Day in Birmingham—including volunteer opportunities
Medal design for the virtual race. (Eventbrite)

Run for a cause and on your own schedule. The 3rd annual I Have A Dream race can be completed anytime, anywhere and at your own pace. You can choose from running 1 mile, 5K, 10K, 13.1 and 26.2 mile races. The registration fee includes a race medal and bib, and 15% of the fee will be donated to the Equal Justice Initiative.

  • When: Participation on Mon. Jan. 17th encouraged, race can be completed any day in January
  • Where: Anywhere!
  • What to bring: Your running shoes
  • Register here for $16 | Facebook

6. MLK Day Commemoration

MLK Day celebrations will take place at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Where the event will take place ☝️(Jacob Blankenship/Bham Now)

Celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Enjoy free gallery tours, live performances and virtual events.

7. United Way Day of Service

United Way volunteers
Volunteers with United Way delivering meals. (Matthew Niblett/Bham Now)

Roll up your sleeves and find a volunteer opportunity that speaks to you. Several volunteer opportunities are listed on United Way’s website, they made it easy to find ways to give back on MLK Day.

8. Wild Alabama MLK Day of Service

Bankhead National Forest
Waterfall in the Bankhead National Forest.(Pat Byington/Bham Now)

Join Wild Alabama and help clean up the roadside of Bankhead National Forest.

9. UAB Virtual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Event

Tune in online for this virtual commemoration event from UAB. From 10:30-11:30AM there will be a panel of health professionals exploring the intersection of social justice and health care at UAB. Starting at 12PM, there will be a performance by the Miles College Choir and a keynote speaker, Lenice C. Emanuel, MLA, Executive Director of the Alabama Institute for Social Justice.

10. 2022 Kiwanis Club MLK Day of Service

The Kiwanis Club of the Haddons is offering several low or no contact service events this MLK Day. Opportunities include food, pajama and book drives, creating greeting cards for the elderly and helping local animal shelters. For a full list of events and how you can participate, visit this event page.

11. Birmingham Bulls MLK Day Game

Birmingham Bulls Hockey Player
Cheer on the Bulls this MLK Day. (Jacob Blankenship/Bham Now)

Celebrate MLK Day with some hockey. Following the game, you can skate with the Birmingham Bulls players.

If you’re in the mood for a day trip, you can check out our guide to MLK Day in Montgomery.

And if you take a trip down to Selma, you need to see the renovated historic St. James Hotel, with an unbeatable view of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

How are you celebrating MLK Day this year? Tag us @bhamnow and let us know.

Gabby Gervais
Gabby Gervais
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