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Alexandria to Celebrate Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 95th Birthday

Panel discussion from 2023’s MLK Day Celebration, Left to Right: Darnella McGuire-Nelson, Reverend Joseph Downing Thompson, Jr., Audrey Davis, Sheriff Sean Casey. (Photo courtesy of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Planning Committee)

Alexandria, VA – On January 15, Martin Luther King Day, Alexandria will celebrate the 95th birthday of Dr. King by doing one of his most beloved things: building community. Various local groups and leaders across Alexandria will gather at the George Washington Masonic Memorial to celebrate Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy through music and discussion. A diverse array of speakers will explore Dr. King’s ideas related to today’s complex political society in a panel discussion titled “Shifting the Cultural Climate: Violence Cease and Love Prevails.”

Alexandria has celebrated Dr. King’s birthday for 51 years, predating the national holiday of MLK day by decades, thanks to Alice Morgan, an Alexandrian civic leader. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Planning Committee, a citizen-led, volunteer-run organization, runs the event. The committee is currently chaired by Rosa Byrd, an Alexandria Living Legend. It is run in conjunction with Semone Byrd, Ellen Nelson, Samia Byrd, William Euille, Tara Casagrande, Rev. Timothy Bryant, Louise Hardy Phillips, Beatrice McQuire, Darnell McQuire-Nelson, and Lawrence Robinson.

This year’s celebration will be enhanced by the pilgrimage conducted this past year to Selma, Alabama. A group of some 200 Alexandrians, from prominent city leaders to high school students, journeyed to Selma to retrace Martin Luther King Jr.’s journey and examine the birthplace of the modern civil rights movement. The trip included curated group discussions on literature, art, and activism today, a program that allowed strangers to become friends under the shade of discovery and learning.

Alfred Street Baptist Church Liturgical Dance Ministry performs. (Photo courtesy of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Planning Committee)

The pilgrimage, although at times intensely emotional, gave its participants new perspectives and profound insights. The travelers, which included much of the Planning Committee and some of the speakers, will share the lessons learned with the broader community during the birthday celebration, applying them to modern-day Alexandria and the state of the world today.

The event will take place from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The fireside chat speakers include Lisa Grant (Deputy Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives), Lillian Stanton Patterson (an Alexandria Living Legend), Yahney-Marie Costic Sangare (ACPS class of ’24 – poet and playwright), and Tanya Wilkins (Third Baptist Church). Multifaith groups such as Saint Joseph’s Gospel Choir and the Beth El Hebrew Congregation will also be a part of the ceremonies.

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