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Martin Luther King, Jr. Festival and Parade: Honor MLK in San Francisco in 2024

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: December 1, 2023

Every year, the Northern California Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Foundation puts on a week-long festival to celebrate the life and work of MLK. It features a parade, film festival, arts festival, health & wellness festival, and more.

The majority of the events will be held on the day of the holiday on Monday, January 15, but you will also find a handful of events on the days prior. This year's festivities run from January 9 to January 15. 

2024 Schedule of Events

These are the events planned for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

MLK Noontime Concerts

Dates: 1/9 and 1/16

The MLK Foundation has partnered with Noontime Concerts to open and close the week's festivities on Tuesday, January 9 and Tuesday, January 16 at 12:30 pm at the historic Old St. Mary's Cathedral. 

These free performances invite the public to gather together in honor of Dr. King's message and enjoy classical music under the direction of renowned pianist Carl Blake. They will also be livestreamed for access to a global audience.

King & Faith Interreligious Symposium

Date: 1/10

This important discussion among scholars and theologians will be about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s thought linking faith and social justice. It explores themes of love, justice, compassion, and civil rights activism and how Dr. King's legacy continues to play out in diverse communities.

The symposium will be held at the Memorial Church of Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. It's free and no registration is required to attend.

SIDGE Conversation

Date: 1/11

This is another free event aimed at fostering conversation about the ethical challenges and opportunities presented by AI (artificial intelligence) systems. 

In line with Dr. King's values, these discussions seek to promote technological advancement for a more just and equitable world, while raising awareness about the moral and societal implications of our current reality. 

MLK Celebration Concert

Date: 1/12

At this annual event celebrating the universal language of music in Dr. King's honor, you'll enjoy performances by internationally acclaimed musicians, including gospel choirs and jazz ensembles.

There will also be spoken word poets and other contemporary artists promoting values of peace, justice, and equality in this lively setting.

The event will take place at the historic War Memorial Herbst Theatre. It is a ticketed event that requires registration. 

BCAF Children's Day

Dates: 1/13

The Black & Brown Comix Arts Festival (BCAF) invites families to enjoy this day of storytelling, interacting with Black and Brown artists, and learning about the creative art form of comics.  

In addition to art displays and live performances, kids will have the opportunity to explore their imagination and create their own artwork. 

This is a free event. No registration is required. 

BCAF Cosplay Soirée

Dates: 1/13

This evening event for guests 21 and up features creative works within the world of Black and Brown Comix Arts. Participants will have the chance to mingle while enjoying themed performances, live art showcases, and other interactive activities. 

Registration is required for this free event, and participants are encouraged to dress up as their favorite characters from comics, graphic novels, and pop culture created by artists of color. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Address

Dates: 1/14

Held at the Stanford Memorial Church on the university campus, this revered annual event features a distinguished guest speaker in honor of the legacy of Dr. King.

The commemoration also includes music, spoken word, and other acts inspired by the civil rights leader's life and work. It's a moment to reflect on the progress that's been made as well as the work that still lies ahead. 

Events on the Holiday: Monday, January 15

Labor and Community Breakfast

The 2024 Labor and Community Breakfast will be held on the morning of January 15. In addition to breakfast, you get the chance to hear from San Francisco's labor unions, as well as political, civic, and community leaders.

This is a paid, ticketed event. I recommend picking up your tickets in advance.

Parade/March

The largest event this weekend is the parade/march. It will begin at 11 am on Monday, January 15.

This 1.5-mile march starts at SF's Caltrain Station (4th and King) and crosses over the Lefty O'Doul Bridge near Oracle Park. It then stops in the Willie Mays Plaza to commemorate the Edmunds Pettus Bridge crossing of the famous Selma-to-Montgomery, Alabama march, a symbol of violence and victory during the civil rights era.

After stopping for a few minutes, the march will continue north to the Yerba Buena Gardens. This is where you can enjoy several other events that will take places throughout the day.

Music Festival

This year's music festival on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday features Grammy Award-winning artists and powerful music that pays tribute to the work of this civil rights leader.

The performers represent a range of genres, celebrating the diverse and harmonious world that Dr. King envisioned. 

These performances will take place on the Esplanade Stage outdoors at the Yerba Buena Gardens.

Health & Wellness Festival

The annual Health & Wellness Festival honors Dr. King's vision of holistic and equitable wellness for all. 

In addition to resource and information booths about healthcare, visitors will have access to testing services, including Covid and HIV tests, dental screenings, and more. 

This free event is open to the community and will take place at the Esplanade Stage at Yerba Buena Gardens.

Additional Events and Details

In addition to those listed above, you will find even more events and details on the official site. Find the full schedule of events.

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

Best Places to Stay in San Francisco

To attend this festival, I recommend staying in either San Francisco's Union Square or Downtown districts. Both are close to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Festival and Parade activities.

The options in these areas vary from two-star budget-friendly hotels to luxury five-star hotels.

Click the links below for my recommendations in both districts.

If you are looking for other locations around the city, you will many discounts depending where you want to stay. Click here to check out the special offers this weekend in San Francisco.

Other Fun Events this Month in SF

SF Sketchfest: One of the largest comedy festivals in the area offers several avows this weekend, too. SF Sketchfest features top comedians from around the US and includes everything from skits to solo stand-up performances. Click here for this year's schedule.

SF Museum Exhibits: Every month, San Francisco museums house some of the best traveling exhibits in the world. Click here for the full January calendar.

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