Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 and first observed three years later. The official holiday is Monday, but the celebration of the civil rights leader’s life will go on for more than a week around the Tampa Bay area.
St. Petersburg has the area’s oldest parade, now in its 34th year, but Plant City and Tampa weren’t far behind. And more Day of Service events have cropped up, a call that arose in the mid-1990s to transform the holiday into a day of volunteer service in honor of King. Here are some highlights of the events and celebrations in the area.
MLK Dream Big Parade, St. Petersburg
The parade honoring the life and dream of Martin Luther King Jr. has been marching through downtown St. Petersburg since 1985. This is the third year of a new parade route that ends at Tropicana Field with a free Family Fun Day of vendors and play from 2:30-7 p.m. The parade includes 110 units and bands from area high schools and historically black universities from across the country, including Tuskegee University and Talladega College. The route lines up at Third Street and First Avenue S, then heads west to 16th Street S and ends across from Tropicana Field. 11 a.m. Monday. 330 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 321-7919. mlkdreambig.com.
Tampa Bay Black Heritage Music Festival
The musical portion of the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival features performances by ‘80s R&B hitmakers Midnight Star (Operator, Slow Jam) on Saturday and also CeCe Peniston (Finally), who was the first foreign female entertainer to perform in post-apartheid South Africa. Sunday brings trumpeter Rick Braun and saxophonist Richard Elliot, combining their contemporary jazz talents as RnR. Includes a children’s village, health screenings, food vendors and giveaways. 1 p.m. Saturday, noon Sunday. Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N Ashley Drive, Tampa. $10, kids 12 and younger free. (813) 218-3320.
As part of the University of South Florida’s MLK Commemorative Week, hear a free talk Tuesday by New York civil rights activist Tarana Burke, best known as the founder of the #MeToo movement. She was among the “silence breakers” honored as Time’s Person of the Year in 2017. She started the Me Too campaign years before the widespread use of social media and a decade before the #MeToo hashtag was publicized. She is also the founder of Just Be Inc., a nonprofit foundation dedicated to helping survivors of sexual harassment and assault. The talk is free and open to the public. 8 p.m. Tuesday. USF Marshall Student Center, 4103 Cedar Circle, Tampa.
The identity of the woman known as “Kiki”/”K.B.” that Drake pined for in last summer’s smash In My Feelings is still up for debate. Not so much for the song’s “Resha” and “J.T.” — that’s Caresha “Young Miami” Brownlee and Jatavia “J.T.” Johnson, a.k.a. Miami rap duo City Girls. The Quality Control signees broke big as the two bad girls “kissing in the Wraith,” and are poised to step further out on their own in 2019. Step out with them at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day party at 7 p.m. Monday at Jannus Live, 200 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg. GlokkNine also performs. $25 and up. (727) 565-0550. jannuslive.com.
The 30th annual community parade includes floats, cars, trucks, walking units and bands. Begins at the park and ends at Middleton High School. Noon Monday. Cuscaden Park, 2900 N 15th St., Tampa. Free. (813) 327-8316. mlkjrparade.com.
Parade marshal Ben Cooper leads a collection of six marching bands, a car club, floats and marching units in the parade themed “Unity Starts Here: the Work Continues.” Recommended viewing areas include near the Plant City Photo Archives, Wilaford Railroad Museum, Sam Cooper Lake and Bing Rooming House Museum. 1 p.m. Saturday. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, 1601 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Plant City. Free. (813) 757-6760.
The “Keepers of the Dream” parade starts at Oakwood Drive, turns onto Howell Avenue and ends at E Fort Dade Avenue. The lineup begins at 8:30 a.m., and the parade starts at 10. Parade participants will be judged according to its MLK-themed decorations and spirit. Starting at 1 p.m., there will be a basketball shootout in the school gym ($5 admission). 9 a.m. Monday. Oakwood Drive, Brooksville. Free. (352) 398-5139 or (352) 797-7015.
A street festival with food and craft vendors, a drum line competition and live music, a Freedom Parade through historic downtown Plant City, middle and high school marching bands, floats and marching units. 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex, 1601 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Plant City. Free. (813) 757-6760. plantcitymlkfestival.com.
St. Petersburg Family Fun Day
After St. Petersburg’s MLK Dream Big Parade, representatives from community and civic groups gather to offer information on health and wellness, financial security, child and fire safety, employment, spirituality and family activities. Takes place outside in Lot 6. 2:30-7 p.m. Monday. Tropicana Field, 1 Tropicana Drive, St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 321-7919.
Singers take you on a historical trip through gospel music of the 1920s to today. 4 p.m. Sunday. St. Mary’s Community Church, 907 E Laura St., Plant City. Free. (813) 757-6760.
The ninth annual community gospel program includes vendors, face painting and a bounce house. 10 a.m. Monday. Cyrus Greene Park, 2101 Martin Luther King Blvd., Tampa. Free. (813) 248-3977.
Keepers of the Dream: Music and Arts Extravaganza
Performances by dancers, musicians, spoken word artists and others demonstrating the theme of unity, plus door prizes and a raffle. 6 p.m. Saturday. Hernando High School Auditorium, 700 Bell Ave., Brooksville. $3. (352) 263-0913.
Battle of the Bands
Approximately 11 bands from historically black colleges from around the country and area high schools present their field shows in this informal, entertaining showcase for families. 5 p.m. Sunday. Gibbs High School, 850 34th St. S, St. Petersburg. $10. (727) 321-7919.
Dream Clearwater MLK Run
This 5K run along the paved Memorial Trail recognizes the Clearwater MLK Jr. Neighborhood Center Coalition. 9 a.m. Monday. Memorial Causeway, Court and Cleveland streets. $15. (727) 226-7223. active.com.
Tampa Bay Black Heritage Run
A 5K run-walk to promote health and wellness honors former festival organizer Felecia Ann Wintons, who died from breast cancer in 2009. 6:30 a.m. Saturday. Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N Ashley Drive, Tampa. $15. (813) 218-3320.
BREAKFASTS AND GALAS
Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival Gala
Dress in period style and take a trip back to the Roaring ’20s for this “Heart and Soul of Harlem Nights” party with music by Joyce “Fenderella” Irby and Klymaxx and a best-dressed contest. 7 p.m. Thursday. TPepin’s Hospitality Centre, 4121 N 50th St., Tampa. $65. (813) 218-3320.
Unity Breakfast and March
Enjoy breakfast, entertainment, keynote speakers and readings of the winning student essays about diversity. A march to a festival in Pioneer Park follows. 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, 550 Laura Lane, Dunedin. Free. (727) 738-2920.
Join the NAACP Branch 5092 and the African American Club of Hernando for the Keeping the Dream Alive breakfast. 10 a.m. Saturday. Pristine Place Club House, 4350 St. Ives Blvd., Spring Hill. $20. (352) 556-4812.
Leadership Breakfast Plant City
Liesta Sykes of the Florida Department of Children and Families serves as keynote speaker for the catered breakfast. 7:30 a.m. Sunday. John R. Trinkle Center, 106 N Park Road, Plant City. $35. (813) 757-6760.
Leadership Tampa Breakfast
The 39th annual breakfast brings together the community to celebrate and continue to carry out the visions of Dr. Martin Luther King. 6:45 a.m. Monday. Hilton Downtown Tampa, 211 N Tampa St. $35. (813) 368-3325.
Leadership Breakfast St. Petersburg
This annual breakfast is designed to bring the St. Petersburg community together to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and to present leadership awards to community members. The keynote speaker will be the Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III, senior pastor of Friendship-West of Dallas. 7:30 a.m. Monday. Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $30. (727) 896-6556. mlkbreakfast-stpete.com.
TALKS AND VIGILS
Interfaith Memorial Service
Roy Kaplan serves as keynote speaker for the service with performances by the Congregation B’nai Israel Choir and Tampa Bay Lumina Aurora Children’s Chorus and the awards presentation for the “Stand Up Together” Martin Luther King Jr. essay competition. 4 p.m. Sunday. Congregation B’nai Israel, 300 58th St. N, St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 381-4900.
A candlelight gathering to pay tribute to the works of Martin Luther King Jr. 5 p.m. Monday. Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, 2240 Ninth Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 323-1104.
Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture Series
Historian and black studies scholar Derrick White presents “Making a King: The Contested Legacies of a Civil Rights Icon.” 1:15 p.m. Jan. 23. Pasco-Hernando State College West Campus, 10230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey. Also at noon Jan. 23, Porter Campus, 2727 Mansfield Blvd., Wesley Chapel. Free. (727) 816-3738.
Plant City Opening Ceremony
Pastor Wilkerson of Mount Olive Baptist Church serves as keynote speaker for the ceremony featuring musical and oratorical presentations by area students. 11:30 a.m. Friday. Marshall Middle School, 104 S Maryland Ave., Plant City. Free. (813) 757-6760. artstampabay.com.
Rhythm and Rhyme
A night of poetry, spoken word and improv comedy with a cultural twist to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. 21 and older. 7 p.m. Friday. Cornerstone Store, 121 W Reynolds St., Plant City. Free. (813) 757-6760.
Gulfport Day of Service
Join the Gulfport community to go door to door performing civil service as you install smoke alarms for needy residents. 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Most Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church Social Hall, 5800 15th Ave. S, Gulfport. Free. (727) 262-0515.
Plant City Day of Service
Volunteers meet to provide community service. Includes breakfast and lunch for all volunteers. Parental permission required for ages 17 and younger. 7:30 a.m. Monday. Bing Rooming House, 205 S Allen St., Plant City. Free. (813) 757-6760.
Port Richey Day of Celebration
Join the African American Club of Pasco at the church for a march to the Booker T. Washington Schoolhouse and a ceremony with performances by the JROTC, students of the AAC Life Skills Program and a talk by Clyde Parket, president of the NAACP of Pasco. 10:30 a.m. Monday. Union Missionary Baptist Church, 6235 Pine Hill Road, Port Richey. Free. (727) 207-9158.
Bring Da Heat Dance Competition
A competition of area dance troupes. 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Gibbs High School, 850 34th St. S, St. Petersburg. $20. (727) 321-7919.
Tokyo Jetz will perform at Whiskey North’s MLK Day Bash, alongside Rod Wave and OMN BOC. $10-$40. 10 p.m. Monday. 11921 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. eventbrite.com.
Flashback Skate Party: Honoring Our Ancestors:
An ice skating party for the ages. Dress like the year you were born. $20 includes appetizers, admission and skate rental. 6-9 p.m. Jan. 26. Florida Hospital Center Ice Center, 3173 Cypress Ridge Blvd., Wesley Chapel.