Triangle marks 85th birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Posted January 20
Raleigh, N.C. — People across the Triangle, North Carolina and the U.S. paused Monday to honor and remember Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on a holiday marking the slain civil rights leader's 85th birthday, which was Jan. 15.at least 1,000 people, such as Eula Davis, gathered for the annual Martin Luther King Memorial March and an ecumenical service for King.
"Ever since it happened, I said, you know, I'm living the dream, and I'm going to hold that banner up, no matter what," said Davis, who's observed King's birthday by marching every year since 1969. "I want his children to see he did not die in vain."
The group also included people marching for the first time – including youth groups, church groups and students – wanting to make sure that King's legacy is carried on to the next generation who dream of changing the world.
Erin Pretlor marched with her two daughters.
"It would be easy for us to just see this as a day off school. They're students. I'm a teacher," said Pretlor. "But the truth is, if we don't start paying attention to what's going on around us and standing for something and showing this is what we believe in – we believe that people should be treated fairly – if you don't do it, then you're not really part of it, and you're not helping make anything better for anybody."
In Durham, people also gathered Monday morning at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel for the 34th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Triangle Interfaith Prayer Breakfast.
Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, was the keynote speaker for the breakfast.
Moss called King "an apostle of justice and an apostle of transformation leading a revolutionary movement" but said his legacy "has been sanitized and captured in a 1963 gaze," referring to his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
"We have de-radicalized the legacy of this man and all of the other ancestors who stood with him," Moss said. "(That's) that racism was, and is, a monstrous evil devouring the dreams and denying the imagination of people who've been kissed by nature's son."
Moss reminded the crowd of just how radical King's message was in his day.
"We must reassess what people say about Dr. Martin Luther King and reclaim the legacy of a man who J. Edgar Hoover said was the most dangerous man in America," Moss said. "You don’t' get on the FBI watch list being some assimilationist Kumbaya-type of individual. You get on the FBI watch list when you have a message and legacy and words that shake the very core and foundation of the structure of a country."
Ten-year-old Donovan Summers also spoke at the breakfast.
"Jesus was our lord and savior, and Dr. King was just a man," Summers, a fifth-grader at Rand Road Elementary School in Garner, said. "However, they both tried to lead us in the right direction; they tried to teach us to love one another, and they both met their deaths because of haters."
In Fayetteville, about 2,000 people gathered at the Expo Center at Crown Coliseum for the 21st Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast, where guest speaker District Judge Ed Pone spoke about the plight of the homeless, many of whom he said are military veterans.
"It's a shame that we have so many veterans who find themselves in that condition," Pone said. "I think that our community is focused on it now. They're cognizant of the problem, and I think they're going to work together to try and address that issue."
About 100 people marched in downtown Fayetteville to bring awareness to the problem and to bring hope to people such as Dawn Hammonds and Charles Cooper, who have lived beneath the Rowan Street bridge in Fayetteville for the past two years.
Other events also took place across North Carolina.
North Carolina civil rights leaders planned to honor King in Goldsboro Monday with a Moral Monday demonstration against policies stopped or reversed by state lawmakers that they say hurt the state's residents.
Gov. Pat McCrory honored King's legacy at a prayer breakfast at the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, where approximately 2,000 attended the 20th annual event.
Volunteers remember King with service
Others observed the holiday through service projects.
More than 2,200 volunteers participated in the United Way of the Greater Triangle's ninth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, which featured 35 volunteer community service projects in Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties.
"We are committed to bringing communities together to achieve real change," said Mack Koonce, the chief executive officer and president of the Triangle United Way chapter. "Today, we did so in honor of Dr. King and the vision he exemplified – that, together, we can bring about lasting change to a neighborhood, a community, a state and a nation."
At North Carolina Central University in Durham, more than 750 volunteers – mostly students – showed up to put together 3,600 packets of soup and pantry items, as well as collect hundreds of scarves, teddy bears and thousands of educational flash cards to benefit those living at McDougal Terrace, a public housing community for low-income residents a mile from campus.
Volunteers said they enjoy knowing that the day's work is affecting neighbors who, at times, need help.
"That's the best kind of community service, when you know you are helping people right around the corner," said NCCU student Sable Nelson.
While volunteers worked, McDougal residents attended seminars, got free beauty services and then visited a community store stocked with books, clothes and items volunteers spent the morning making.
"We do feel special. We feel very special that someone thought of us," said Elaine Robinson, an 11-year resident of McDougal Terrace.
A similar project at St. Mary’s School in Raleigh included more than 350 volunteers with proceeds to support homeless shelters, food pantries, shelters for women and children and early childhood education programs across the Triangle.
King remembered nationwide
Across the nation, people also marked the King holiday.
President Barack Obama and the first lady honored King's legacy of service Monday by helping a Washington, D.C., soup kitchen prepare its daily meals and a host of administration figures fanned out across the capital to appear at holiday events.
In Columbia, S.C., Rev. William Barber, the president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, spoke at a rally in which he criticized Republican leaders in Congress and governors in the South for having "treated most Americans badly" by refusing federal money to expand Medicaid and by allowing schools to fall further behind.
In San Antonio, an estimated 100,000 people took part in a march that's considered one of the largest in the country. The group marched for nearly 3 miles and ended the event with a program featuring food and refreshments.
In King's hometown of Atlanta, hundreds of people filled Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached, for prayers, songs, music and speakers.
And in Memphis, Tenn., where King was assassinated April 4, 1968, an audio recording of an interview with him was played at the National Civil Rights Museum. The recording sheds new light on a phone call President John F. Kennedy made to King's wife more than 50 years ago.
Historians generally agree Kennedy's phone call to Coretta Scott King expressing concern over her husband's arrest in October 1960 — and Robert Kennedy's work behind the scenes to get King released — helped Kennedy win the White House.
The reel-to-reel audiotape was discovered by a man cleaning out his father's attic. The father, an insurance salesman, had interviewed King for a book he was writing, but he never completed it and stored the recording with other interviews he'd done.