Commemorate Dr. King’s life and legacy with a “day on”

Holiday commemorated with voting rights statements, opportunities to educate, advocate and activate

January 11, 2022 - by Janice Keller, Communications Director

Join the City of Bellingham, community organizers and regional partners in commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King by making January 17, 2022, a “day on” rather than a day off: a day of service and a day to educate, advocate and activate for voting rights.

Protecting voter access and expanding voting rights was central to Dr. King’s mission and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Recently members of the King family called on the nation to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday this year as a day to educate, advocate and activate for voting rights, particularly urging progress on the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act currently before the U.S. Senate.

Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood signed a Mayoral Proclamation commemorating MLK Day urging Congress to pass voting rights legislation. The Bellingham City Council approved a similar Resolution presented by Council member Edwin “Skip” Williams at the January 10 regular City Council meeting. (See for video of the January 10 Committee of the Whole discussion.) 

“We support and join the King family in their efforts to move these two vital voter rights bills forward and to use the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday as an opportunity and a platform to do so. We refuse to stand by silent while voter rights are eroded,” Fleetwood said in the proclamation, which also urges community members to contact their Congressional representatives.

In addition, the City is partnering on various events offering other ways for community members to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King consistent with his family’s wishes.

Day of Service volunteer event

9 a.m. to Noon, Monday, January 17, 2022

Start your “day on” by volunteering with the City of Bellingham and Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day of Service Community Work Party. Volunteers will restore habitat in Squalicum Creek Park near the Willow Spring restoration site. All ages and abilities are welcome and no previous volunteer experience necessary. Tools, gloves, instructions, and snacks provided. Registration and COVID safety precautions required. In addition, volunteers are invited to make donations onsite to Birchwood Food Desert Fighters, a group of neighbors and allies working to address the food desert in the Birchwood neighborhood.

MLK Day virtual event featuring Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday, January 17, 2022
Event details and registration:

Western Washington University, the City of Bellingham, and many other regional partners are hosting a virtual event featuring New York Times best-selling author and 2021 MacArthur Fellowship (Genius Grant) recipient, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, along with speeches and performances including remarks by Bellingham City Council member Kristina Michele Martens.

Dr. Kendi is expected to address America’s historic and current struggle for voting rights in his live interview and question/answer period. Event participants are encouraged to learn more, register to vote, vote at election time, and contact federal representatives to share their views about voting rights legislation.

“The most important thing we can do to keep Dr. King’s dream alive is to continue his fight for equality and for a fairer, more just society,” said Sabah Randhawa, president of Western Washington University. “I am deeply grateful to our collaborators in this important event including Bellingham Public Schools, Bellingham Technical College, Northwest Indian College, Skagit Valley College, Whatcom Community College, PeaceHealth, Veritas Media, and the City of Bellingham. Together, we are working to strengthen and enhance our communities.”

Bellingham MLK Organizing Committee plans for 2022: Event cancelled

A long-standing community group has cancelled its traditional plans to hold a Martin Luther King Jr. event at the Mount Baker Theatre, noon to 1 p.m., in respect of the King family’s requests and in light of the recent spike in COVID cases. The Bellingham Organizing Committee for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day typically holds an event featuring speeches and the Kulshan Chorus, with the support of the City of Bellingham, and has done so for many years.

Committee spokesperson Clyde Ford said that, in the interest of political conscience and public health, 2022 is a year to find another way to honor King. He urges people to instead contact their Congressional representatives to urge passing of voting rights legislation and to learn more about people who fought and died advocating for those rights.

“Voting rights was central, absolutely central, to King’s agenda and that of the Southern Freedom Struggle,” Ford said. “It is distasteful to watch partisans across the country enact legislation to restrict these voting rights, which many men and women in previous years have protested and died for. Although some would like to turn back the clock on voting rights, we will not go back to a time when the voices of the enslaved and the marginalized were barred from being heard at the ballot box.”

Media Contact

Janice Keller, Communications Director
City of Bellingham
(360) 778-8100 or

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