Thousands gather in Memphis where King was slain

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A boy holds a painting of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day 32nd annual Interfaith Community Program at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler, Texas, on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Hundreds of people marched in a parade and attended the program honoring King, where speakers talked about the need in continuing to strive for justice and equality. (Chelsea Purgahn/Tyler Morning Telegraph via AP)

MEMPHIS, TENN (AP) —Martin King Day was signed into law in 1986 and this year’s commemoration drew perhaps the most volatile  responses to our current leadership at the highest level.

At gatherings across the nation, activists, residents and teachers honored Martin Luther King Jr., the late civil rights leader, on what would have been his 89th birthday and ahead of the 50th anniversary of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.

King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, urged people to remember her father by doing “an act of kindness toward someone of another race” between now and April 4, the day the Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.

Thousands of people have celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday with song, dance and speechmaking at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

The holiday weekend was a special father-and-son trip for Alan Williams and 14-year-old Alan Louis Williams. The pair from Tallahassee, Florida, visited important sites in King’s life, including the site in Memphis where King declared, “I’ve been to the mountaintop.”

 

From Anger to Peace, the nation remembers

Across the United States, celebrations and services were held, some with anger and protests while others were advocating for peace.

Maurice Watson, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Largo, Maryland, denounced President Trump with Vice President Mike Pence sitting in the pews as he delivered his sermon.

Watson called Trump’s remarks — in which he reportedly used an obscenity to describe African nations and Haiti during an immigration discussion with Congressional leaders — “dehumanizing” and “ugly.”

The pastor said “whoever made such a statement” is wrong and should be held accountable.

In a photo provided by the Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., left, looks over an exhibit about the Cherokee Freeman during a visit to the Martin Luther King Center in Muskogee, Okla., on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Leaders of the Cherokee Nation marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day by welcoming the descendants of slaves into their tribe after years of exclusion. (Courtesy of the Cherokee Nation via AP)

Watson said he felt “led by God to do it” and noted many of his congregants come from African nations.

Worshippers stood and applauded as Watson spoke.

The Cherokee Nation says Principal Chief Bill John Baker decided that the tribe should honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year because of ongoing racial tensions nationwide and because the tribe is seeking to make amends with slavery.

Cherokee Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said Monday that the tribe is working to come to terms with its own history with African-American slavery and is welcoming descendants of former slaves, known as Freedmen.

A federal court ruled last year that the Freedmen had the same rights to tribal citizenship, voting, health care and housing as blood-line Cherokees.

Hoskin visited the Martin Luther King Community Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma and spoke how King’s message of civil rights resonates with Native Americans.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King speaks during the Martin Luther King, Jr. annual commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. (Phil Skinner/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, urged people to remember her father by doing “an act of kindness toward someone of another race” between now and April 4, the day the Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.

She asked hundreds of people gathered Monday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where her father once preached, to “connect and find a sense of humanity in each other.” And she reminded those at the service to honor the slain rights leader by remembering that “we are one people, one nation, one blood, one destiny.”

The younger King also joined others who criticized President Donald Trump and told the crowd that their collective voice “must always be louder than the one who sometimes does not reflect the legacy of my father.”

And she said it’s time for what she called a “New Year’s revolution of values in our souls” and to honor her father by finishing the work “that he was not able to finish.