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Celebrating MLK: ‘The first step is to listen’

AFL-CIO, others plan Rev. Martin Luther King Day events starting Friday


(Jan. 14, 2021) — Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday, Jan. 18, but events and actions have already begun to celebrate the legacy of the great civil rights — and labor rights — leader.

Here’s a roundup of some events of note, including this weekend’s AFL-CIO Civil and Human Rights conference that will feature, among others, Washington State Labor Council Secretary Treasurer April Sims.

“Last week, the world watched a mob of domestic terrorists storm the U.S. Capitol, attacking our country and democracy. We must name the role white supremacy played: their special treatment as they roamed inside the Capitol, and the racist conspiracies and language that led them to Washington, D.C., that day,” said Nakisha M. Lewis, AFL-CIO Director of Civil, Human and Women’s Rights. “This cannot happen again. To build a strong labor movement that protects all working people right now and in the future, we must unite against systemic racism and economic injustice. And the first step is to listen.”

Every year, the AFL-CIO brings together leaders to honor their work and learn how labor, racial justice and economic justice intersect. We will do the same this year at the 2021 AFL-CIO Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference. The event will be held virtually on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 15-16. Over the course of two days, participants will hear from a diverse set of speakers representing the civil rights and labor movements. It’s free to participate, but you must register here.

Some featured speakers on the agenda include:

● Derrick Johnson, President, NAACP National
● Stacey Abrams, Founder, Fair Fight
● AFL-CIO Officers: President Richard Trumka (UMWA), Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler (IBEW) and Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre (UFCW)
● April Sims, Secretary-Treasurer, Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Waikinya Clanton, Senior Adviser, Democratic National Committee
● Everett Kelley, National President, AFGE

Several activists and leaders will also be honored with the AFL-CIO’s annual MLK awards, with lifetime achievement recognition to AFT Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus Dr. Lorretta Johnson.

Here are some more MLK Day events of note:


► King County’s 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration begins at noon on Thursday. The theme and accompanying quote for the celebration are: Creating the Beloved Community, and:

“A democracy cannot thrive where power remains unchecked and justice is reserved for a select few. Ignoring these cries and failing to respond to this movement is simply not an option — for peace cannot exist where justice is not served.” — U.S. Congressman John Lewis

The celebration’s keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Ben Danielson, an advocate for the health and well-being of children and families with low incomes. In keeping with public health guidance and safety, this year’s event will be held virtually. It will be live streamed starting at noon on King County TV and Facebook Live. Get more details here.


Fast-food workers are going on strike across the nation on Friday, on what would have been MLK’s 92nd birthday, to demand $15/hour and the right to join together in unions. Fight for 15 says that employees of McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other fast-food chains will stay away or walk off the job in roughly 15 cities. Get details. Also, you can sign this petition in support of raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hour within the first 100 days of the Biden administration.

► The Seattle MLK Jr. Organizing Coalition has been conducting workshops and events all week. On Friday at noon, the action continues with a workshop on Zero Youth Detention. Get details on the Seattle MLK Coalition’s event calendar or go ahead and register here.

► Whatcom Human Rights Task Force will host the opening ceremony and keynote address of its 23rd annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights Conference in their online debut. After a short opening ceremony, the keynote will be “Reservoir of Hope: Artists of Revolution” featuring Ed Bereal, Jay Chavez AKA “Sue Nami-Meadows,” and Ebony Harris and facilitated by Shu-Ling Zhao. Get details and register here. WHRTF events will continue Saturday and Monday. See the full schedule here.


► The Seattle MLK Jr. Organizing Coalition has been conducting workshops and events all week. On Saturday at 10 a.m., the action continues with a workshop on The History of Policing in the United States. Register here. Then at noon, Meet the NAACP Youth Council: The Youth Tell the Truth About Racism in Schools. Register here. At 2 p.m., join Strategies for Community Healing, a panel discussion of activists describing their innovative efforts to create new paradigms for BIPOC communities, especially Black communities, to thrive in Seattle. Register here. And finally at 4 p.m., there will be a workshop on Alternatives to Policing: Policing in Cuba. Register here. You can find more detailed descriptions about all these events on the Seattle MLK Coalition’s events calendar.

► Ahead of the Biden-Harris inauguration, the Frontline is partnering with Women’s March, Rising Majority, the Movement for Black Lives, Working Families Party, United We Dream and others to continue to mobilize thru #ForwardTogether, an unprecedented Mass Organizing Virtual Event, on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. (Pacific time). Get details and RSVP here.


MLK Day is not a day off, it’s a day on! If you are looking for a COVID-safe way to spend your MLK Day of Service on Monday, check out AmeriCorp’s database of community volunteering opportunities. Also the Biden-Harris Inauguration Committee has information about participating in Monday’s National Day of Service here.

► Olympic College and others will host the 27th Annual MLK Day Celebration – “A Testament of Hope” starting at 10 a.m. Monday via live stream. Get details.

► The King Center will present the 2021 King Holiday Observance Beloved Community Commemorative Service beginning at 10:30 a.m. This is the culminating program for the weeklong celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy. Get details and register here.

► Every year, the Seattle MLK Jr. Organizing Coalition leads one of the largest and longest-running marches on the West Coast, reminding us that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is alive and well – 2021 is no different! Join the Good Trouble, Necessary Trouble: Community Rally and March (socially distant). The rally begins at 11 a.m. and the march begins at 12:30 p.m. at Garfield High School, 400 23rd Ave. See the event website for important details about this year’s event, including safety precautions being taken due to COVID. Also find them on Facebook or at #MLKSeattle.

► Lift Every Voice Legacy and the Communities of Color Coalition will host “Becoming Brave,” a tribute to MLK featuring the Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, at noon on Monday. Click here to register or get details.

► Central Washington University students, faculty, and staff will commemorate MLK Day on Monday, Jan. 18 with a physically-distant “Peace March” set for 3 p.m. on the Ellensburg campus. Pre-registration is encouraged by emailing The march will adhere to CWU and state COVID-19 safety protocols. Get details.

► Whitworth University invites all to What Dr. King Would Be Teaching in 2021 with Odell Bizzell starting at 6 p.m. on Monday. Bizzell, a nationally known blogger, speaker, author and entrepreneur, will share his thoughts on what Dr. King would be teaching in 2021. Get details or join via Zoom here.

► The City of Tacoma presents the 33rd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Birthday Celebration in Tacoma. The theme of year’s celebration is “Collective Voices/Collective Hope.” The pre-recorded virtual program will feature local performers and speakers who work and volunteer to insure our community represents equity and hope. TV Tacoma will premiere the program on Monday at 8 p.m. The program can be viewed online and streamed live on Facebook at The event will continue to be televised on TV Tacoma throughout January.

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FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!