MLK Day Community Celebration

LIVE EVENT, also Streams via MCAT

About Us

Donate HERE to support this year’s event. Download MLK Day Celebration Flyer HERE.

Every year Missoula’s MLK Day Celebration Committee honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King by engaging our community in dialogue about race and justice through a virtual Intergenerational and community-led celebration. It is the mission of the Missoula MLK Day planning team to build a community-wide celebration providing educational, service, and advocacy events within Missoula to help elevate and remember the work of the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy; committing our community to ongoing anti-racism and human rights work today and in the future. We acknowledge that the work of the civil rights movement is intersectional. Therefore, while many events focus on issues of racial justice, we realize the need for empowerment for many in our community and beyond.

As we congregate today on land inhabited from time immemorial by the Salish, Pend d’Oreilles, and Blackfoot people and in the spirit of the civil rights movement, we acknowledge the historical and ongoing trauma of native and Indigenous peoples across our country and especially here in Western Montana. The Missoula MLK Day Committee seeks to utilize our platform to honor, support, and empower their voices and those of other historically marginalized communities. In the spirit of Dr. King, we wish to continue and expand upon his legacy by addressing the intersecting issues of diversity, inclusion, and civil rights in the modern age while acknowledging and addressing the historical trauma wrought by colonialism, genocide, slavery, and segregation. Through the awareness of Dr. King’s timeless teachings, we can navigate our choices when confronted with issues of human rights in the future.

This year’s event will feature our annual Youth Art & Essay Contest based on MLK quotes, a keynote address, art and music and calls to action from local youth leaders. This event will be on January 16th, 2023 from 6 pm-8 pm.

Our keynote speaker is Akilah Deernose (she/her/hers) Staff Attorney with ACLU of Montana.

Akilah was born in the East Bay Area of California and spent the first half of her childhood there, before moving to Tacoma, WA. Growing up in a single parent household at the intersection of poverty and race, with a disabled brother and a learning disabled sister, also suffering from mental illness, who was funneled out of mainstream schools and into the criminal justice system, Akilah saw firsthand the many barriers to access, equity, and justice faced by a large portion of the population. These experiences shaped her view of the world and grew within her a dedication to ensuring meaningful access to opportunity, justice, and equal rights under the law for all. Akilah received her undergraduate degree in Politics from Willamette University. In 2009, she graduated from Santa Clara University School of Law where she was honored with the Outstanding Graduate Award. While in law school, Akilah served on the student boards of the Black Law Student Association and the ACLU. She also interned at the San Jose Public Defenders Office in both the juvenile justice division and on a felony trial calendar assignment. Additionally, Akilah interned at the Mental Health Advocacy Project of the Silicon Valley Law Foundation. Prior to joining ACLU Montana, Akilah worked as a staff attorney with Montana Legal Services Association providing legal support and assistance to survivors of domestic violence.  Akilah is passionate about building inclusive community, centered on awareness of social justice issues. In her free time, Akilah enjoys dancing, floating rivers and hiking to alpine lakes with her two children. When not with her children you can find her trail running, racing half and full marathons, and learning more about Black history- especially related to her Gullah heritage.

Dr. King remains a central figure in our nation’s ongoing dialogue on race and equality. Celebrating his legacy and honoring his work is needed more than ever in the current moment. Through service, action, lecture, and art, the MLK Day celebration provides an examination of the legacy of Dr. King, equity issues locally and nationally, and ways to bridge divides and resolve differences. Donations from individuals and businesses throughout the community are the fuel that powers this celebration. This year’s MLK Day Youth Art and Essay Contest, as well as the larger celebration centers around a Dr. King quote: 

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”

We invite you, to join us in applying and actualizing Dr. King’s methods of understanding, compassion, and non-violence to all situations involving human rights while reflecting upon his words, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”

Photos of 2020 Missoula MLK Day Celebration

Photo credit Montana Kaimin