Home Local News Donzaleigh Abernathy, daughter of Rev. Abernathy and Goddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther...

Donzaleigh Abernathy, daughter of Rev. Abernathy and Goddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to keynote the 2023 Madison & Dane County MLK Day Observance 


Donzaleigh Abernathy will be the keynote speaker at the 38th Annual City-County observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Coalition of Madison & Dane County announced on Friday.

Abernathy, the daughter of Rev. Abernathy and Goddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is an award-winning actress and writer who has authored Partners To History, Martin Luther King, Ralph David Abernathy and the Civil Rights Movement and was a contributing author to the Smithsonian Institute’s book In the Spirit of Martin.

Abernathy and her siblings witnessed and participated in all of the major civil rights movements and marches. Along with the King children, her family integrated Spring Street Elementary School which led to mass integration of schools in the South in 1965.

This year’s MLK City-County Observance, which will be emceed by American Family Insurance President Telisa Yancy, will take place on Monday, Jan. 16, 2023, at the Overture Center for the Arts in the Capitol Theater. The observance will include a freedom songs sing-in from 5:15-5:45 p.m., followed by the program from 6-7 p.m. The Observance will feature a presentation of the Madison-Dane County Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Awards by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Mayor of Madison Satya Rhodes-Conway. Noted musicians Leotha and Tamera Stanley will lead the MLK Community Choir.

A series of events are planned for the MLK Weekend. However, the MLK free community dinner that normally kicks off the King Holiday Weekend has been canceled this year due to ongoing health and safety precautions. The King Coalition is pleased to support the partnership between Feeding The Youth and Little John’s to distribute free community meals to those in need.

Other events scheduled for the MLK Weekend, per the King Coalition, will include:

  • SUNDAY, JANUARY 15 – MLK ECUMENICAL SERVICE: An Ecumenical Worship Service will be held at 4:30 p.m. at Blackhawk Church, 5935 Astor Drive, Fitchburg. Hosted by the King Coalition in partnership with a diverse group of faith community leaders, the MLK Ecumenical Service joins people together from diverse religious traditions, socioeconomic statuses, ethnicities and political beliefs in the spirit of brotherhood/ sisterhood to honor Dr. King’s dream of social justice and equality. It also seeks to develop the “beloved community” through spiritual inclusivity and recognition of our shared humanity.
  • MONDAY, JANUARY 16 – MLK YOUTH CALL TO SERVICE: The King Coalition, in partnership with the City of Madison, Dane County, MSCR, Madison Out of School Time (MOST), Madison Public Library, the Urban League and many others, invite middle school youth to participate at the Madison Central Library (11:45 a.m.-4:45 p.m.) as we explore service and activism in Dr. King’s memory. Lunch is provided. There is no cost to participate, but registration is required. For more information, contact Andrew Schilcher at [email protected].
  • MLK COMMUNITY CHOIRThe MLK Community Choir will again be led by noted local musicians Leotha and Tamera Stanley. The Choir will perform at the City-County MLK Day Observance. The Choir is open to all community members wishing to participate. Interested participants must attend rehearsals on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 6:30 p.m. & Saturday, Jan. 14, 11 a.m. Both rehearsals will be held at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 2029 Fisher Street.