North Texas MLK Day events go virtual this year

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday will look a lot different this year.

Gone are the big parades and celebrations. Instead, a lot of virtual events and some of them already started.

The Brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity are kicking off the celebration of one of their most revered members: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

With MLK parades canceled in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington due to the pandemic, the celebration in 2021 has gone virtual.

Lisa Thompson with the Arlington MLK Celebration says the city is trading in its in-person banquet and youth extravaganza for a virtual entertainment show this year featuring local dance groups and choirs.

"It was an undertaking to really think about how we could pull this off," she said.

A high school sophomore winning Arlington’s art contest scholarship with this piece, reading: "We may have all come on different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now."

"I think sometimes through the eyes of children, we see a lot. And they see a lot as well," Thompson said.

Dr. Jason Shelton, chair of Arlington’s Unity Council, addressed the impact of the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests on both the city and the nation.

"My wife and I have had to explain to our kids the difference between riots and civil protests," he said.

Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes, pastor of Friendship West Baptist Church, kicked off the Dallas virtual celebration with a similar discussion, including the call from activists to reallocate police funding to other areas in the community.

In Fort Worth, the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum celebrated several civil rights pioneers and activists, including the late C.T. Vivian and Congressman Jon Lewis, who both passed away last summer.

Lewis, a friend and ally of Dr. King, helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he called for nonviolent social revolution just before King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Thompson is hoping North Texans take the initiative this year to not let the pandemic stop them from giving back on Monday’s day of service.

 "In living the dream of Dr. King, as he said, ‘We all have to come together or we will perish,’" Thompson said. "It’s just about what you can do as an individual to understand what unity is about."