Durham, N.C. — With prayer, songs and good works, North Carolinians observed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Monday.
The annual Martin Luther King Triangle Interfaith Breakfast kicked with Oshe Pittman, a student at James Kenan High School in Warsaw, delivering the speech that inspired a nation and the world. He interspersed quotes from President Barack Obama's victory speech on Election Day 2008.
Several speakers including Rev. Dr. Ronald Smith, president of the Southern Union Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and Gov. Pat McCrory talked about Dr King's lasting legacy and his courage to fight for equality despite constant death threats.
McCrory called King a personal hero. "He challenged Americans to reach for our greatest potential and move America forward," the governor said.
In downtown Raleigh, about 2,000 people marched from the state capitol to the Progress Energy Center where they celebrated King's life and legacy.
"I'm marching for the man who wanted equal rights for all of us," said Remonia Adams. It was her 20th MLK parade.
Wake County District Court Judge Michael Morgan noted the progress made toward King's dream of equality.
"We still have a long way to go, but America and the world is a much better place because of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., " he said.
Melody Ray-Welborn cited the diversity of the crowd as a reason for celebration. She was among many parents who brought their children out to Monday's celebration.
"I think it's special that we're all recognizing what an important day today is, and how important it is to be good to others and kind to others regardless of skin color, or background or how they're the same or different from all of us," she said.
A day of doing in Durham
The United Way's annual Day of Service was expected to draw thousands across four counties to dozens of projects that ranged from making baby blankets to assembling meals and CPR training.
Madeleine Gonzalez, a 16-year-old volunteer, said her work on King Day had a wider application. "I really feel this is something I can use in the real world," she said.
Lakia Gould and Alexyss Hargrove, both 10, were also among those learning and serving at the Levin Jewish Community Center in Durham.
"We learned some stuff about Martin Luther King, and how to help people out," Alexyss said.
"Because he did so much things in his life that it changed the world," Lakia added.
Brooke Huang and Vany Nguien, both 15, made teddy bears for less-fortunate children.
"I don't know where they will end up, but I hope they end up somewhere they are needed," said Brooke.
"We're so privileged and have a good life, and we have a roof and we have food, and a lot of people don't have what we have, so we need to give back to our community and share our benefits," Vany said.
NC guests visit MLK memorial
A quirk in the calendar pushed President Barack Obama's public swearing-in in Washington onto King holiday and, in the nation's capital, North Carolinians marked the convergence.
At the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington on Monday morning, Nicole Hailey, 34, and her family from Monroe, N.C., made a point of coming to the memorial before staking out a spot on the National Mall for the inauguration. "It's Martin Luther King's special day," she said. "We're just celebrating freedom."
More North Carolinians will celebrate in Washington Monday evening when the state Democratic Party hosts an inaugural ball Monday evening on Fort Myer just outside the city.