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Arlington honors MLK Day with performances, volunteer opportunities, and clean ups

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo via Arlington County)

(Updated on 1/13/23) Several community service events are taking place in the coming days across Arlington in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King.

County offices may be closed on Monday (Jan. 16), but the county and local organizations are holding events on and around the federal holiday recognizing the civil rights icon’s birthday.

On Sunday, the county is set to hold its annual MLK Tribute event from 5-6:30 p.m. in the Washington-Liberty High. School auditorium at 1301 N. Stafford Street. This is a change from Wakefield High School due to a maintenance issue. The event will also be live-streamed.

The tribute will feature live music, spoken word, and dance while being produced by Encore Stage & Studio in Cherrydale. The program will highlight MLK’s visit to Arlington prior to the 1963 March on Washington.

Arlington’s annual MLK Tribute has been going on for more than five decades and “was first organized by Arlington County staff and community members in 1969, the year after Dr. King was assassinated,” per the county’s website.

Then, on Monday, Volunteer Arlington is working with a number of different local organizations to host its sixth annual day of service.

For the first time in a few years the event will be held in-person, though there will be virtual options as well.

It will begin at Washington-Liberty High School with opening ceremonies and t-shirt distribution for the first 500 volunteers at 9 a.m.

At 9:30 a.m., volunteers will disperse to participate in one of more than the 20 projects being hosted county-wide. These opportunities include making snack bags for students, cleaning up Barcroft Park, and learning how to help Arlington’s older residents. It’s recommended to sign up for the preferred project in advance since a number are already filled.

Also on Monday, Walk Arlington is planning a clean-up of the W&OD Trail.

Organizers are asking volunteers to meet on the trail where it intersects with Columbia Pike. A WalkArlington tent is expected to be set up near that intersection with the goal of walking the trail about half a mile toward S. George Mason Drive. The plan is to pick up litter and debris on “a beautiful trail that’s enjoyed by cyclists and walkers alike.”

In 1984, Virginia started officially commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. on the third Monday in January. But MLK Day was paired with the uniquely-Virginian Lee-Jackson Day, creating a peculiar and controversial holiday that recognized two Confederate generals and a civil rights icon on one day.

The two days were separated in 2000, though Lee-Jackson Day remained on the books as a state-wide holiday for another two decades. In 2020, a bill was signed into law that officially removed it as an official holiday in Virginia.

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