Annual MLK Day celebrations, events in DeKalb adjust to pandemic

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Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park commemorates the 91st birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.and the 34th anniversary of the National King Holiday beginning Wednesday, Jan. 15. AJC file photo

By Zachary Hansen

Like most holidays during the past year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations, gatherings and volunteer events will look different in DeKalb County.

A few annual events will transition to outdoor settings to promote social distancing, while others were reimagined with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind. Here are how two DeKalb cities and an annual 5K are adjusting to host events in honor of the civil rights icon.

At 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 18, Brookhaven will host its fifth annual “MLK Day Dinner and Program,” but it will take place outdoors this year. The meal will be hosted in the Apple Valley Road parking lot of the Brookhaven MARTA station, located at 1268 Apple Valley Road.

A stage will also be erected in the parking lot, and speakers include Liane Levatan, a former senator in the Georgia General Assembly and former DeKalb County CEO. The rest of the speakers will be announced at a later date, according to a news release.

The event, which typically takes place at the Lynwood Community Center, will require face masks and social distancing. The “dinner in a bag” will be handed out to attendees, who can eat their meals in their vehicles. Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased at the Lynwood Community Center during weekday business hours or online at

“Despite all of the challenges we have faced throughout the year with the pandemic, we are moving forward with #BrookhavenStrong fortitude and still providing this forum to honor Dr. Martin Luther King and Lynwood’s proud history,” District 1 Councilwoman Linley Jones said in the release.


Nearby Dunwoody is shifting its focus to a community food drive and volunteer service projects to celebrate MLK’s legacy. The “Souper Bowl of Caring” began in late December and will last until Jan. 18. The city aims to collect 50,000 pounds of non-perishable food items and has already gathered roughly 800 pounds, according to a news release.

The food will be donated to the Community Assistance Center and Malachi’s Storehouse. Collection bins have been set up throughout Dunwoody. Bin locations and hours are listed at The food drive is a partnership between Dunwoody Parks and Recreation and the Dunwoody-Atlanta Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.

In addition to the food drive information, the website also lists several volunteer projects, including a tree and daffodil planting effort at Brook Run Park, a plaza painting project at the Spruill Center for the Arts and a greenspace cleaning effort at the Dunwoody Nature Center.

“We’re working hard to provide important volunteer opportunities that are safe and socially distanced,” Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch said in the release. “Even in these challenging times, we want to continue our tradition of honoring the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. with community service projects for all ages.”

MLK Day Drum Run

For those who want to be active on MLK Day, the 10th annual “MLK Day Drum Run” in Stone Mountain Park is scheduled to take place. Starting at 8 a.m., the park will be filled with the thumps of drummers.

The drums will continue when the run begins at 9 a.m. Registration costs $35 and includes park admission and parking. The event also acts as a fundraiser for Atlanta area schools, churches and community organizations, since $5 of each registration will be donated.

The event’s website encourages participants to stay six feet apart and wear masks until the run begins. More information and registration is available at

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