8 Places to Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Metro Phoenix


By Teresa K. Traverse

January 12, 2023

Martin Luther King Jr. was an iconic figure in the civil rights movement. His legacy is commemorated with a federal holiday held annually on the third Monday of January. 

Plenty of places in metro Phoenix celebrate this holiday in various ways. From jazz performances to lively festivals, here are eight ways to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  

1. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebrating & Service in Surprise 

Jan. 14 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

The Vista Center for the Arts 

15660 N. Parkview Place, Surprise 

Image via City of Surprise

The City of Surprise is celebrating Dr. King on Jan. 14 with a variety of programming. Attendees can listen to performances by local musicians, school choirs, and faith-based groups. 

Participants are also encouraged to volunteer for various service projects in the Valley Vista High School cafeteria from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Anyone interested in participating in the planned service projects must register beforehand.

One highlight: Eric Williams will serve as the keynote speaker. Williams is the curator of religion for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. 

Food trucks will be serving food from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m 

2. “Dear Martin” A Jazz Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jan. 14 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

South Mountain Community College Performing Arts Center 

7050 S. 24th Street, Phoenix 

Image via South Mountain Community College

The South Mountain Community College Performing Arts Center (SMCC) will host a jazz tribute to Dr. King on Jan. 14 starting at 6 p.m.

Listen to live jazz music, storytelling, film, and watch dance performances that aim to commemorate King’s legacy. A portion of ticket sales goes towards the SMCC Stars Scholarship and Nextstudent Academy of the Arts. 

General admission tickets cost $25 each. VIP tickets cost $45. More information can be found on the SMCC website.

3. Chandler’s Multicultural Festival 

Jan. 14 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Dr. A.J. Chandler Park: Stage Plaza

178 E. Commonwealth Avenue, downtown Chandler 

Photo courtesy City of Chandler

Chandler’s 28th annual Multicultural Festival is part of the city’s Celebration of Unity events. 

These are held annually in January to honor the community’s diversity and the spirit of Dr. King. Attendees can look forward to storytelling, music, dance, and food, in addition to a variety of performers and vendors. 

This festival will feature a variety of live performances. Anticipate seeing the Desert Embers Belly Dance, the Era Kpop Dancers, and even a martial arts demonstration from Bautistaka Jukenbo MMA. 

Food trucks slated to be on hand include Rock N’ Rolled Ice Cream, Mm Coffee and Fish Tacos, Dad’s Ribs and Mom’s Tacos, and One Hot Mess. 

A variety of vendors will also be at the event. Find goods from Kaydee’s Kandles, Love Glasses Revolution, and Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli-AZ. Attendees also can check out a plethora of informational booths. 

Find more information at the City of Chandler website.

4. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Candlelight Service

Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. 

Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church 

1401 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix 

Photo courtesy Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church

Hundreds will gather at the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in downtown Phoenix to hear an all-ages choir and hymns honoring Dr. King Monday evening.

In addition to singing, attendees also can see student scholarships being awarded and listen to speeches from community members. 

Attendees are encouraged to RSVP here.

5. 2023 Arizona MLK Celebration March & Festival

Jan. 16 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

March begins at Pilgrim Rest Church and ends at Hance Park

Pilgrim Rest: 1401 E. Jefferson Street | Hance Park: 67 W Culver Street


Head to downtown Phoenix for a march and festival that celebrates Dr. King’s rich legacy. 

A march will start at the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church and takes attendees throughout downtown Phoenix. The march ends at Margaret T. Hance Park, where all are welcome to come and enjoy a lively festival.

More information on the march and festival can be found here.

6. Anthem MLK Unity Walk & Day of Service 2023

Jan. 16 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Community Park Amphitheater 

41703 N. Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem 

For the second year, Anthem is celebrating the life of Martin Luther King with a unity walk. Following an opening prayer, attendees can participate in a unity walk intended to symbolize King’s inspiring messages. 

Learn more about this event here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/anthem-mlk-unity-walk-day-of-service-2023-tickets-250232230337

7. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade and Festival 

Jan. 16 at 11 a.m.

1 E. Main Street, Downtown Mesa 

Photo courtesy City of Mesa

Mesa is celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a parade and festival. 

Downtown Mesa’s parade will kick off at the intersection of Center Street and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street—which will be dedicated earlier that day. 

Look forward to seeing a dynamic group of people that includes marching bands, schools, dance troupes, elected officials, and community leaders. The parade will then travel east on First Street and end on Hibbert. 

This is the parade’s 25th anniversary. The theme for this year’s parade is “What are you doing for others?”

Following the parade, attendees can enjoy a community festival from noon to 4 p.m. at The Plaza at Mesa City Center. Enjoy food, a variety of vendors, entertainment, and Kids Unity Corner where kids can find crafts and activities. 

Pro tip: If you have children and are looking for even more to do, Mesa’s i.d.e.a. Museum and The Arizona Museum of Natural History will both be offering half-price admission during the holiday.  

More information about the street dedication, parade, and festival can be found here.

8. MLK March on West 

Jan. 18 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

ASU West Campus

4701 W. Thunderbird Road, Glendale 

ASU’s Glendale Campus will host its annual March on West on Jan. 18. This event dates back to 1991. 

Attendees can listen to a presentation about the civil rights movement, music, and a reading of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by ASU faculty member Charles St. Clair. 

More information on how to participate can be found here.


  • Teresa K. Traverse

    Teresa K. Traverse is a Phoenix, Arizona-based writer and editor. Her work also has appeared in national print outlets including Weight Watchers, Bust and Parenting magazines and on sites like Tripadvisor, Wine Enthusiast, SFGate, Brides, Rachael Ray Every Day, Bustle, Racked, ForRent.com, WeddingWire, Refinery29, The Daily Meal, Oxygenmag.com, USA Today and Fast Company. She's the managing editor of Sedona Monthly. In her spare time, she loves hiking, reading magazines and spending quality time with her long-haired Chihuahua, Rocket. Visit teresaktraverse.com to check out more of her work.

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