State News

Triangle honors Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy

Posted January 18, 2010 4:01 a.m. EST
Updated January 18, 2010 7:38 p.m. EST

— The Triangle honored the legacy of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. with a variety of events Monday, including an interfaith breakfast, march and service projects.

"I just take pride in my culture, in my history," said Angela Wilson, who participated in a memorial march in Raleigh.

"I come out every year," marcher Annie Mae McCullers said. "I love Dr. Martin Luther King. He was a righteous man. He was a very good man."

The national holiday kicked off with the 30th Annual Martin Luther King Triangle Interfaith Breakfast at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Durham. Rev. William J. Barber, president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, gave the keynote address. Gov. Bev Perdue also spoke.

Speeches and song marked the 17th Annual Martin Luther King Breakfast at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville. Hundreds attended, and Fayetteville State University Chancellor James Anderson was the keynote speaker.

In downtown Raleigh, a replica of the Liberty Bell was rung at 11 a.m. in the Bicentennial Plaza, across from the State Capitol building.

"He had a dream, he had a vision, and he has left that vision for us," Dr. Dumas Harshaw Jr., pastor at First Baptist Church, told the crowd that braved a chilly wind.

Hundreds of people then sang "We Shall Overcome" as they marched down Fayetteville Street to the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts. There, an ecumenical service began at noon, and another will take place at 5:30 p.m.

The Triangle has deep connections to King, who would have been 81 years old. King made five public appearances in Durham.

He canceled a sixth appearance in Durham at the last minute to go support striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn. That appearance had been scheduled for April 4, 1968 – the day an assassin shot King as he stood on his hotel balcony in Memphis.

Marchers reflected on how King's vision shaped life today – and what America could have been like without his influence.

"Martin Luther King opened the doors for a lot of people, a lot of black people," Montez Lindsay said. "I think it would be a lot different (without him), because I don't think whites and other ethnicities would respect black people as much as they do now."

"I probably wouldn't be standing here right now, probably wouldn't be talking to you right now," Xavier Vaughn said.

Others thought about how King's vision could be better realized in contemporary society.

"We need more jobs, more income. And stop the crime. Stop the violence," McCullers said.

Many Triangle residents, including preschoolers and college students, chose to live out King's legacy with volunteer activities.

North Carolina Central University students started building a Habitat for Humanity house at the Eagle Village Community in Durham. Sen. Kay Hagan spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony.

The United Way of the Greater Triangle planned to give new computers to families Monday. Volunteers with NCTech4Good and Teaming for Technology organized volunteers to give the families computer training.

Durham Academy students packed 20,000 meals to be distributed by Stop Hunger Now, a Raleigh-based international hunger relief organization.

Wake Technical Community College students installed playground equipment at the QEI Child Development Center, a church-run center in southeast Raleigh.

In Chapel Hill, the Delta Sigma Theta sorority's alumnae chapter held a blood drive for the Red Cross from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Carolina Inn.

Fayetteville residents volunteered to pick up trash along the Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Duke University held a commemoration service in King's honor at Duke Chapel Sunday. The service included several musical performances, and labor activist Dolores Huerta delivered the keynote address.