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Annual MLK Unity Breakfast And These King Day Events in Birmingham

Martin Luther King Jr., with the Rev. Ralph Abernathy (center) and the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, defied an injunction against protesting on Good Friday in 1963. They were arrested and held in solitary confinement in the Birmingham jail where King wrote his famous "Letter From Birmingham Jail."
By Haley Wilson and Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times

Birmingham will observe Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday this week and next with a number of citywide events including the 35th annual Unity Breakfast on Monday January 18 at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex North Exhibition Hall with guest speaker actor, activist, rapper Michael Santiago Render, better known by his stage name “Killer Mike.”

The breakfast begins at 7 a.m. and will begin with a performance by the MLK Unity Choir, who will then introduce Mike, who made his debut with rap group Outkast in 2000.

Metro area high school students who submitted essays associated with King’s legacy will also be guests at the breakfast. “They reflect on the ideas of Dr. King as an educator, as a civil rights leader, as a spiritual leader and as a humanitarian,” said Event Chair, Catrena Norris Carter.

The Community Affairs Committee has coordinated the Unity Breakfast and want to attract as many as possible to gain knowledge about King’s legacy. They also feel during a time where many people are divided, remembering his message of peace is important.

“Martin Luther King Jr. touched everybody’s life,” said Aaron Carlton, Community Affairs Committee chair. “He didn’t just touch Black people’s life only; he touched every single person today-black and white . . . If we don’t have events like this, it will just soon go away and it will just be a memory and if it’s not taught in history book, then a lot of people won’t know.”

The idea of holding an annual event to honor the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr originated with Abraham Woods Jr, chair of the Birmingham SCLC. Odessa Woolfolk and her colleagues in the Community Affairs Committee suggested holding a celebratory breakfast in 1986.

The event will feature a keynote address, awards, and performances by area musical groups. Community Affairs Committee chair Aaron Carlton organized the event for nearly three decades.

Doors Open at 6:30 am. Gospel Concert at 7:00 am. Tickets may be purchased at the door.

For information contact Scottie McClaney at (205) 612-0254.

Here’s a listing of additional MLK celebrations across Birmingham:


  • Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Event: The Intersection of Social Justice and Health Care. Thursday, January 13. 10:30-11:30 a.m. and 12-1 p.m. Presented by the UAB Heersink School of Medicine Office for Diversity and Inclusion & UAB Health System Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. During the 10:30-11:30 a.m. hour, a round table panel of health professionals will explore the intersection of social justice and health care at UAB. The afternoon session will begin at 12 p.m. with a performance by the Miles College Choir and lead to our keynote speaker, Lenice C. Emanuel, MLA, Executive Director of the Alabama Institute for Social Justice.


  • Sixth Annual MLK Day 5K Drum Run. This fun run features drumlines from Birmingham area schools and organizations that will line up along the race course to keep the beat as the runners and walkers make their way. Each drumline will receive a donation to their band booster association through our nonprofit, The Leftover Energy Foundation Inc. Saturday, January 15 at 7 a.m. The 5K begins at 8 a.m.; the 1 mile fun run/walk starts at 9 a.m. The Fourth Avenue Historic District / History Park, 1700 4th Ave North. Registration is $35 in advance; $40 at the event. For more details, go to mlkday5kbham.com.
  • King Day Festivities. Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, 520 16th Street North. Free gallery tours, live performances and virtual programs. Monday, January 17, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. bcri.org
  • MLK Day of Service. United Way Hands On. Monday, January 17. Various service projects around Birmingham.
  • MLK’s Beloved Community. Sponsored by the UAB Leadership and Service Council, Live HealthSmart Alabama, Protective Life, and the Woodlawn Foundation, MLK’s Beloved Community honors the memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This event provides an opportunity for UAB students to join forces with Birmingham citizens to empower and strengthen our community through service, moving us closer to Dr. King’s global vision of a “Beloved Community.” Monday, January 17. 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
  • 4th Annual MLK Day Habitat Restoration at W. E. Putnam Middle School.E. Putnam Middle, (1757 Montclair Road). Monday, January 17, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Join Alabama Audubon for a morning of outdoor work and service at the Audubon-Datnow Forest Preserve at Birmingham’s W.E. Putnam Middle School.
  • Give More Love Service Day Workshop. Birmingham poet and author Seneca Wilson will host a free virtual Martin Luther King Jr. Day empowerment workshop, which will help high school and college students understand the importance of being a leader and giving back to their communities. It will be held on Monday, January 17 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. It is open to the first 100 students who register at www.senecawilson.com/gml.
  • MLK Food drive with half admission. Birmingham Zoo, 2630 Cahaba Road. On Monday, January 17, the Birmingham Zoo invites the community to give back to those in need in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. By donating any non-perishable or canned food item in support of the Zoo’s Community Food Bank of Central Alabama Food Drive, visitors will receive half-price admission and can enjoy the Zoo for only $8 (plus tax) for adults, $7 (plus tax) for senior citizens 65 years and older and military, and $5.50 (plus tax) for children ages two to twelve-years-old. Children under two-years-old are free. Guests must bring one item per person to receive the discount. Birminghamzoo.com.

Updated on 1/17/2022 at 11:58 a.m. to correct dates.