2019 MLK Day celebrations: Here’s a guide to events happening in KC area suburbs

The city of Liberty celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. at William Jewell College’s John Gano Memorial Chapel Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. Tenor David Sanchez, a William Jewell alumni, had the crowd on its feet at the end of his performance of How Long, O Lord, the second movement from “I Will Lift Mine Eyes” by Adolphus Hailstork. The college’s concert choir performs with Sanchez.
The city of Liberty celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. at William Jewell College’s John Gano Memorial Chapel Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. Tenor David Sanchez, a William Jewell alumni, had the crowd on its feet at the end of his performance of How Long, O Lord, the second movement from “I Will Lift Mine Eyes” by Adolphus Hailstork. The college’s concert choir performs with Sanchez. jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

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MLK Day 2019

This year marks the 33rd national observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday. Monday would be his 90th birthday.

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Around the time he joined a group of Lee’s Summit citizens and stakeholders that make up the city’s Human Relations Commission, Dale Beasley felt the need to help the city put on its annual event celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

When Beasley sat in on some committee meetings four years ago, he heard what the city was trying to do and he decided to get on board.

By the following year, he was voted in as the chairman of the event, a role he’s served for three years now.

“I’m a community-oriented person,” said Beasley, who is also a pastor with Pillars of Truth Ministries and a chaplain for the Lee’s Summit Police Department. “I want to see a community that’s united on every level, and I feel like MLK is a great avenue to really make a difference and change in Lee’s Summit, to really bridge the gap in Lee’s Summit.”

Since its inception more than 20 years ago, the format of the event has changed. He said he wants to take what previous organizers have done and build on it, “to do something even bigger and better, to make MLK a greater celebration.”

Steve Arbo, city manager, said this will mark the 22nd year Lee’s Summit has held the event with the goal of celebrating the values bestowed by Martin Luther King Jr. and to “build our community spirit.”

“Lee’s Summit is a strong community where our citizens support one another, especially in times of need,” Arbo said in a statement. “As our community grows and becomes more diverse, the MLK celebration provides us the opportunity to acknowledge and embrace our differences.”

As the city’s population grows over the years, so has attendance.

At least 400 people are expected to attend this year. Last year, more than 300 attended.

Beasley says the theme of the event, “Dream. Believe. Do.,” is fitting for this year’s keynote speaker, Bill Baird, who was elected the new mayor of Lee’s Summit in April.

“It give us an idea into his dream, what he believes and what he wants to do for the city of Lee’s Summit, so to me, it went hand-in-hand and was perfecting timing,” Beasley said.

The 22nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration in Lee’s Summit is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 21 at The Pavilion in John Knox Village, 520 N.W. Murray Road. A pre-show is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. followed by the program 6 p.m.

The event will feature musical performances from the Lee’s Summit High School jazz band, Cedar Creek Elementary, the Lee’s Summit North Crimson Camerata and the MLK Community Mass Choir.

Cultural booths will be placed around the venue with educational information on different countries, featuring Gambia, Kenya, Panama and Russia.

T-shirts will be given to the first 300 people at the door.

The event is open to the public.

Many other suburban communities, groups and organizations in the Kansas City area are having their own MLK celebrations and will recognize his message this year:


The 22nd annual “MLK Multicultural Celebration” will be held 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 at Raytown South High School, 8211 Sterling Ave. It’s organized by the Raytown Community Interfaith Alliance

Featured speakers include Chaz Ingram, a motivational speaker and television actor, and Mayor Mike McDonough.

Musical performances at the event include the Raytown South High School Cardinal Chorale and the Raytown South Middle School Jazz Band.

Winners of the annual MLK Today essay contest will be announced.

Proceeds from a freewill offering will go toward the Raytown Emergency Assistance Program and the Raytown Summer Lunch Ministry.


The 35th annual “Northland Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration” is scheduled 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21 in the Gano Chapel on the William Jewell College campus located at 500 College Hill in Liberty

This year’s theme is “400 Years of Perseverance and Survival: The Dream Lives On!”

Lilia Toson, who graduated from William Jewell in 2007, will be the keynote speaker. Toson, an assistant attorney general at the New York State Attorney General’s Office, focuses on health care and civil rights policy cases.

The program will also feature the William Jewell College Concert Choir with Director Anthony Maglione.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Awards will be given to residents, along with a special Invictus Award for social justice.

Kansas City, Kan.

Residents in Kansas City, Kan., are invited to celebrate King’s legacy at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 21 at the Reardon Convention Center, 520 Minnesota Ave. Pre-service events begin at 10:30 a.m.

“Empowering People to Live in Harmony, Love, Unity and Commitment” is the theme.

Robert Smith, Jr., a professor of preaching from the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Alabama., will speak.

The event also features a theater trailer live production from “The Underground” and a performance from a 200-voice mass choir.

In addition, 30 graduating high school seniors will be receiving the Rev. C.E. Taylor/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship.

The event is free. Attendees are encouraged to bring canned goods to be donated to food pantries.

Overland Park

The 15th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy and Scholarship Awards Dinner is scheduled Monday, Jan. 21 at the Marriott Hotel in Overland Park at 10800 Metcalf Ave.

Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinner at 6 p.m. The program starts at 7 p.m.

David Haley, a Kansas state senator representing part of Kansas City, Kan., will be presented with the Legacy Award.

Throughout the program, scholarship winners will read their essays. The students wrote essays themed “Ending Silence.”

Diversity Advocate Awards also will be presented.

Reservations are $75.

For more information, email mlkingcomm@gmail.com or call 913-912-7195.


The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration in Independence is scheduled 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21 in the Truman Memorial Building, 416 W. Maple Ave.

“Hope draws us into the future; faith sustains us in the present” is the theme of this year’s event, organized by the Community of Concerned Citizens with the city’s Human Relations Commission.

The celebration will feature speaker Cecelia Belser-Patton, as well as performances from the Seventh-Day Adventist Youth Choir, the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Gospel Choir, national anthem performance from Taimane Key, Tausala Key and Teuila Key, and prelude music by David Sua.


MidAmerica Nazarene University will hold its 13th annual “Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration: Honoring the Dream” at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22 at College Church of the Nazarene, 2020 E. Sheridan St., in Olathe.

The university will be presenting its Martin Luther King Jr. Living Legacy Award and recognizing recipients of its Martin Luther King Jr. Leader Scholarship.

This year’s speaker and recipient of the Living Legacy Award will be Vivian Avery, who served six terms on the Olathe Human Relations Commission and was the driving force behind the city’s MLK contest for students.

Kaitlyn Schwers covers breaking news and crime at night for The Kansas City Star. Originally from Willard, Mo., she spent nearly three years reporting in Arkansas and Illinois before returning to Missouri and joining The Star in 2017.