With calls for a day of service to the poor and a renewed commitment to nonviolence, Americans on Monday commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal holiday that honors the slain civil rights leader.
President Obama and his wife, Michelle, will lead a day of service, according to the White House, and they will be joined by hundreds of thousand of volunteers feeding the hungry in cities, including New York. Parades in honor of King will be held in many places, including Los Angeles.
The King Center, established in Atlanta, Ga., to honor the Nobel Prize winner’s memory and politics, called for a day of “no shots fired,” Bernice A. King, CEO of the center, said.
“We will commemorate the 85th birthday anniversary of my father with an array of exciting and uplifting programs and events to encourage people everywhere to choose nonviolence, particularly young people,” King stated.
King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and the federal holiday was established by Congress in 1986. King was 39 years old when he was assassinated in April 1968.
During his tumultuous life, King became one of the most recognized leaders of the movement to extend legal rights to African Americans, principally in the South he called home. As his prestige grew, so did his field of operation, encompassing demonstrations across the nation.
His campaigns of civil disobedience to extend voter rights and fight legal barriers in the courts became the tactics that marked many other movements in the United States, including those for Latino rights and those fighting for lesbian, gay and transgender issues.
Union leaders, including Richard L. Trumka of the AFL-CIO, echoed such themes Monday. Speaking at a parade in San Antonio, Texas, Trumka called for continuing King’s legacy by fighting for new issues.
“I’m talking about an increase in the minimum wage,” he said. “Universal sick pay. I’m talking about job creation. And other measures to stop the collapse of working people in America. These are not luxuries but necessities. America is hungry, sisters and brothers. America hungers for justice today.”
In Atlanta, a service was planned at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was pastor. He received the Nobel Prize in 1964.
In Memphis, Tenn., an audio recording of an interview with King will be played at the National Civil Rights Museum, which includes the Lorraine Motel, where King was killed.