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8 Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

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Martin Luther King, Jr., Delivers Famous "I Have A Dream" Speech

Martin Luther King, Jr., Delivers His Famous “I Have A Dream” Speech in Washington DC in 1963 – photo via National Archives

Every year, communities across the nation celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year marks 31 years since MLK Day was created and almost 51 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963.

Rather than simply taking a day off, Americans around the country are attending parades, festivals, music and charitable works to help carry on Dr. King’s message.  Here are eight events not to be missed today.

1. This year Houston, Texas, is hosting the 20th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Grande Parade. This event has been ranked as the nation’s third largest parade of the year. Roughly 300,000 people show up and as many as 4 million people watch the parade live on TV. This year there are more than 150 performing groups, 30 marching bands and 15 floats.

1512057_10152138366109096_1181913633_o2. In St. Petersburg, Florida, Tampa Bay Black Heritage is hosting its 29th Annual National MLK Drum Major for Justice Parade. Schools from all over the south are participating, with drumlines performing a wide variety of music.

3. 2011 Boston Music Award winner, MAMADOU, performs this year at the Boston’s Children Museum as part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Performance. The event celebrates the lives of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and the late Nelson Mandela with musical traditions of West Africa.

2012FairmountCDC4. Ranked as one of the largest gatherings of its kind in the country, Philadelphia is hosting the 19th Annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service this year. The city hopes to bring in even more volunteers than last year, which drew an estimated 115,000 volunteers and 1,600 service projects. Projects for 2014 includes serving meals to the homeless, arranging book donations, and preparing care packages and hygiene kits.

5. The 29th Annual Martin Luther King Parade in Denver, Colorado, is the largest Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march and rally in the nation. Participants are marching to the Civic Center Park, followed by a signing of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. yearbook and a wreath ceremony. Service is incorporated into the event with several stands accepting non-perishable food, old cell phones and children books.

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 8.08.43 PM6. City Year of Los Angeles is continuing its Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service tradition at an area middle school. Each year, the city chooses a school where volunteers paint murals and quotes, with the goal of creating a more inspiring environment for students.

servlet7. In Tacoma, Washington, the 26th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration is hosting a full day of events that is expected to draw in more than 2,000 adults and children. Former NFL player Eric Boles is the keynote speaker this year. Performances include a youth choir, a local step team and a high school drumline, as well as other events to commemorate the Civil Rights Movement.

8. Hands On Atlanta is hosting its citywide Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service event. The event is expected to have more than 3,000 volunteers who are working to clean up various Civil Rights Historic sites and neighborhoods. Students of all grades are encouraged to participate in different civic education events. Afterward, there will be a Sunday-themed supper where participants discuss current issues and possible solutions for the community.

By Siena Mazero for