15 Martin Luther King Jr. Day events across Iowa in 2024

By Amie Rivers

January 12, 2024

They say Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday held this year on Jan. 15, 2024, should be “a day on, not a day off.”

So in that spirit, here are some events coming up honoring—and furthering the legacy of—one of this country’s greatest civil rights leaders. (For an even more comprehensive list of events and volunteer opportunities, check out the Facebook group, Inside Black Iowa.)

Jan. 13 – MLK Now 2024 Conference: Recreating Black Economies – Cedar Rapids

When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13

Where: Veterans Memorial Building, Cedar Rapids

This free event will feature a broad program for adults, with panel discussions on employment and business development, decreasing Black incarceration in Iowa, managing personal finances, and investing, featuring the mayors of Cedar Rapids and Waterloo and other Eastern Iowa community leaders. But there’s fun for the kids too, with career exploration, arts and crafts, do-it-yourself cooking with free food, a carnival and bounce houses.

More information: https://mlknow.com/

Jan. 13 – 35th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration – Des Moines

When: 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 13

Where: Iowa State Capitol Rotunda, Des Moines

Presented by the Iowa Office on the Status of African Americans, the event’s keynote speaker will be Humanize My Hoodie co-founder Andre’ Wright, and the 2024 Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award will be presented to Teree Caldwell-Johnson, executive director of Oakridge Neighborhood and Oakridge Neighborhood Services.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=686696223618254&set=a.562817229339488

Jan. 13 – MLK and Civil Rights Today – Marion

When: 1-2:30 p.m. Saturday. Jan. 13

Where: Marion Public Library

“How do we continue the fight for civil rights in our community?” is the big question at the heart of this panel, which will feature Black and LGBTQ+ speakers. Presenters will be Iowa Democratic Party Black Caucus Chair Al Womble and pastor and activist the Rev. Dr. Michael Blackwell of Cedar Falls.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=889986706463235&set=gm.768854465284520&idorvanity=264180249085280

Jan. 14 – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute and March – Dubuque

March: 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14, at Jackson Park, Dubuque

Tribute award ceremony: 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14, at St. Luke’sUnited Methodist Church, Dubuque

Sponsored by the Dubuque NAACP, this event honors student work—including art, essays, poems, songs, and more—that honors Dr. King and others who stand up to injustice with nonviolence. If you can’t make the tribute, the award-winning student work will be available to view at Carnegie Stout Public Library from Jan. 16-Feb. 4.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=888175393311033&set=gm.767297448773555&idorvanity=264180249085280

Jan. 14 – 45th annual MLK Banquet – Waterloo

When: 5:30 p.m. social, 6:30 p.m. dinner, Saturday, Jan. 14

Where: Waterloo Convention Center, Waterloo

Dr. Michael Blackwell will be the keynote speaker at the 45th annual celebration presented by Social Action, Inc. This year’s theme is “The Impact of a Dream.” Tickets are $50.

More information: https://allevents.in/waterloo/45th-annual-martin-luther-king-jr-banquet/200025892920714

Jan. 15 – MLK Celebration – Ames

When: 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15, and throughout the week

Where: Ames City Auditorium, Ames

Keynote speaker George Trice (a cousin of Iowa State football legend Jack Trice) will speak about “The Path,” a journey to do great things to keep the dream and legacy of Dr. King alive. Other events will happen throughout the week, including an ISU Campanile carillon concert, “Let Freedom Ring,” at 11:50 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18, and a lecture by civil rights lawyer and scholar Sherrilyn Ifill at 6 p.m. Jan. 25.

More information: https://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2024/01/10/mlk2024

Jan. 15 – Martin Luther King Jr. Vigil – Ankeny

When: 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15

Where: Ankeny Kirkendall Public Library, Ankeny

More information: https://www.facebook.com/ankenycommunitynetwork/posts/pfbid02McUtTQsBQZW5Aw2Lz9giJ1FP9i8XgvBKgQrvSP4oR9Ma3z2PCGGWsuogQa1N5GVel

Jan. 15 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day: A Celebration of Human Rights – Coralville

When: noon-6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15

Where: Coralville Recreation Center (12-4 p.m.) and Coralville Public Library (4:30-6 p.m.)

Help paint a mural with a local artist, listen to live music from Blake Shaw and Charlotte Blu, participate in community service projects and play games at this family-friendly event. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech will be read at 5:30 p.m.

More information: https://www.coralville.org/975/Martin-Luther-King-Jr-Day

Jan. 15 – MLK Day Celebration – Des Moines

When: 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15

Where: Forest Avenue Library, Des Moines

Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Ian Roberts will deliver the keynote address, and kids can participate in a collaborative art project facilitated by After School Arts Project (ASAP). Live ASL interpretation will be provided.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=688375210117022&set=a.562817229339488

Jan. 15 – Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast – Des Moines

When: 7:30-9:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 15

Where: Drake University Knapp Center, Des Moines

WNBA Hall of Famer Chamique Holdsclaw, an activist for mental health and wellness, will give the keynote at this year’s prayer breakfast, with the theme of “Building Health in Spirit, Mind and Body: Addressing Barriers to Mental Health Equity.” Individuals will also be honored with the Make A Difference Awards for their work to advance opportunity and build a stronger, more inclusive community. Tickets are $50.

More information: https://dmia.recliquecore.com/programs/56/special-events/

Jan. 15-23 – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration of Human Rights – Iowa City

When: Various times Jan. 15-23

Where: Mercer Park and various locations at the University of Iowa

A Unity March at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 15 kicks off the MLK Week events at the University of Iowa. Dr. Russell Ledet will deliver an educational lecture on medicine and advocacy at noon Jan. 17, a service day project will be from 5-8 p.m. Jan. 20, and NPR journalist Michele Norris will give the MLK Distinguished Lecture at noon Jan. 23.

More information: https://mlk.uiowa.edu/

Jan. 15 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Program – Iowa City

When: 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15

Where: Bethel AME Church, Iowa City

Dr. Venice Berry will keynote, and Mayor Bruce Teague and others are slated to give comments at this community event, which will also feature music from the Bethel AME and East Union Mennonite church choirs.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=888880643240508&set=gm.767922355377731&idorvanity=264180249085280

Jan. 15 – MLK Day Celebration – West Des Moines

When: 3-5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 15

Where: MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex, West Des Moines

The free event, sponsored by the city and city’s Human Rights Commission, will feature keynote speaker Rich Salas, Chief Diversity Officer and Assistant Professor for the Behavioral Medicine and Bioethics Department at Des Moines University. A reception will begin at 3 p.m., though registration for that is requested.

More information: https://www.wdm.iowa.gov/Home/Components/News/News/7321/117

Jan. 21 – MLK Day Celebration – Sioux City

When: 6 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 21

Where: First Congregational United Church of Christ, Sioux City

A celebration of Dr. King featuring selections from the MLK Community Choir and a keynote by the Honorable Judge Robert Tiefenthaler, the first Black judge to preside over Iowa’s 3rd Judicial District.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/unityinthecommunitysiouxcity

Feb. 8 – Be Heard Youth Town Hall – Des Moines

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8

Where: Polk County Northside Community Center, Des Moines

The Youth Town Hall is a chance for students to talk about the issues that impact them. Organizers note they’ll also incorporate Black history into the event.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/795046222393878

  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.


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