MLK Learning and Service Opportunities in the Iowa City Area

We may not be able to come together as a community for an in-person day of service and learning this year, but there are still ways to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. virtually and in your own home.

Read on for MLK day service and education opportunities provided by Iowa City Area organizations:

The 1619 Project

Each Friday, Jan. 8 – Feb. 26, 2021 at 11 a.m.

The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative. We’ll explore and discuss the essays and multimedia content from The 1619 Project together (virtually on Zoom) over the course of eight weeks.

Registration required; call 319-356-5220 to sign up and receive the Zoom link.

The 1619 Project is sponsored by the Iowa City Senior Center.

Virtual Film Screening: John Lewis: Good Trouble

Friday, Jan. 15 – Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021

An intimate account of legendary U.S. Representative John Lewis’ life, legacy and more than 60 years of extraordinary activism — from the bold teenager on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement to the legislative powerhouse he was throughout his career. After Lewis petitioned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to help integrate a segregated school in his hometown of Troy, Alabama, King sent “the boy from Troy” a round trip bus ticket to meet with him. From that meeting onward, Lewis became one of King’s closest allies. He organized Freedom Rides that left him bloodied or jailed, and stood at the front lines in the historic marches on Washington and Selma. He never lost the spirit of the “boy from Troy” and called on his fellow Americans to get into “good trouble” until his passing on July 17, 2020.

The film will be available for streaming Jan 15-30 for free. Watch the film online.

This event is sponsored by Beloved Community Initiative and FilmScene.

Dr. MLK Jr. Day of Service Celebration

Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 at 10 a.m.

Bell-ringing, guest speakers, performances and a resource fair. More information and livestream links to come soon at

Free Drive-Up Lunch

Monday, Jan. 18, 20201, from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

Rodney’s Jamaican Jerk & BBQ Food Truck located at 1104 S. Gilbert St.

Lunch will be provided at no cost while supplies last. Stop by the food truck and grab a meal to go. Choice of meat and two sides.

Virtual Talent Showcase

Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 from 6 to 7 p.m.

Spoken word, music, and dance to be viewed live online. More information and a livestream link will be provided at

MLK Day of Service with RSVP: No-Sew Tie Fleece Blankets for Local Organizations

Monday, January 18, 2021

Make an impact from the safety of your home. RSVP will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr’s commitment to service by making No Sew Tie Fleece Blankets to benefit Shelter House and Iowa City Animal Care. Craft solo or together with your COVID-free pod. An opportunity to craft with others over Zoom will be offered on Monday, January 18.

Contact Erin Balvanz at [email protected] or 319-337-7823 to sign up, or register for this Day of Service event online. 

MLK Programming with Corridor Guests

Monday, January 18, 2021 from 7 to 8 p.m.

Join us for a collaborative online program that addresses how Dr. King’s legacy is as important today as it was when he was alive. The program, titled “We the People: Protest and Peace” will feature musicians and speakers, as well as a short service to honor Dr. King’s legacy and offers a chance to connect as a larger community with his message. The first 40 people who register for this program will receive a Protest Art Kit. This kit includes mixed media materials you can use to create your own piece of art. Registration for this event opens on January 7. Kits will be available for pick up via the Iowa City Public Library Lobby service.

Learn more and sign up.

This event is open to the public and hosted by the Iowa City Public Library.

Cosponsor: St Paul’s, NAACP, Mount Mercy College, Coe College, Cedar Rapids Public Library

Celebrate Black Excellence Everyday: Honoring Unsung Heroes

Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 at 7 p.m.

An informational presentation of important and influential Black people that are not always remembered for their contributions to history and the Civil Rights Movement. The virtual presentation will be interactive with regular breaks for polls, discussion questions, and comments in between.

This presentation will be facilitated by Samer Suleman.

To participate, please contact [email protected].

Drive-In With the Stanley: Simone Leigh

Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021 at 7 p.m.

Have you heard about slow looking? Every Tuesday we invite you to slow down and spend time looking closely at a work in the museum’s collection. Then, at 7:00 pm central time, join your fellow lookers, Stanley Museum of Art director Lauren Lessing, and film critic Uri Lessing to discuss your observations on Instagram Live.

This week, Lauren and Uri explore Simone Leigh’s 103 (Face Jug Series). They will go live on Instagram at 7:00 p.m. January 19 to take a deep dive with you into what you see when looking at the artwork. The program will be saved to Instagram TV if you are not able to join us live.

Learn more about sculptor Simone Leigh, whose work exploring Black female subjectivity blends African art history, ethnographic research, and feminist and post-colonial theory, here.

Follow the Stanley on Instagram to learn more and join the livestream: @uistanleymusem

UI Health Care Human Rights Week Distinguished Lecture

Wednesday, Jan 20, 2021 at 12 p.m.

Joan Y. Reede, MD, MPH, MS, MBA, dean for diversity and community partnership and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, will deliver the Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Lecture as part of the 2021 UI Health Care Human Rights Week celebration.

Register to attend the virtual event.

At-Home Day of Service Project: Literacy Kits

Wednesday, Jan. 20, – Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021

Literacy Kits are simple crafts that you can assemble independently or with your household, and they contain a children’s book and an activity related to the book to make reading fun for early elementary-aged children.

They will later be distributed to at-risk children to give access to books and increase their ability to reach reading milestones- the most important predictor of a child’s future success.

You will be able to pick up the materials at the Iowa Memorial Union (IMU) starting January 20, or at any local drop off location starting January 24, and you may return the completed project to any of the local drop-off locations through January 30.

Register to participate and you’ll receive more details, including the location of the various pickup and drop-off sites.

The literacy kit project is sponsored by the University of Iowa.

Day of Service Project: Food Drive

Monday, Jan. 25 – Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021 at 12 p.m.

The food drive will be held to benefit the Food Pantry at Iowa and CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank.

Donations may be dropped off at any drop-off location throughout Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty. There is also the option to shop for each organization’s specific needs at local grocery stores: upon arrival at the store during a designated time, you will receive a list of food and basic needs items that each organization is in need of, purchase those items, and donate them on-location.

For all the details of how to participate, including a wish list of items needed, a list of the donation drop-off locations for each city, which stores will be holding the onsite shopping option, and a form to fill out to participate, visit

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Summit

Saturday, Jan. 23 at 1 p.m. & Saturday, Jan. 30 at 1pm

The Iowa Dr. King Youth Summit invites youth, 6th grade through 12th, to participate in two Saturday sessions on Dr. King’s vision for the future. Both of the interactive sessions will include workshops on “What Would Dr. King Do,” “Black Youth as Agents of Change” and “Versus: Dr King and Malcolm X.” Youth will join in games, conversations and skill building to create change in our communities. Over the course of two Saturdays, students will be in community with educators who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) with support from allies. This is a space cultivated to support the needs of BIPOC students while students of other backgrounds are also welcome. All youth will be in this space focused on social justice, equity and community building.

Register online

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Summit is hosted by Black Lives Matter at School, United Action for Youth, and Iowa City Parks & Recreation.

How will you celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Anne is a kinda crunchy, kinda unapologetically corner-cutting mom who has lived in Iowa City since 2004. She is a graduate student in Library and Information Science at the University of Iowa and works in the Children's Services department at the Iowa City Public Library. Before going back to school, she was a stay-at-home mom to her two daughters for several years, and took her children to the library multiple times a week. Basically, she has lived at the library for about a decade. Which is fine, because her biggest passion in life is books. When not reading, Anne also enjoys hiking, low-budget road-tripping, and drinking craft beer on a patio.


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