Americans Honor MLK With ‘A Day On, Not A Day Off’

Communities across the U.S. celebrate Martin Luther King Jr's birthday with acts of service

  • Share
  • Read Later

Americans across the country celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday with marches, church services, and acts of community service in what organizers of the MLK Day of Service called “a day on, not a day off.”

President Barack Obama and his family spent the day at the DC Central Kitchen serving meals to low-income residents of Washington D.C.

“We’ve got lamb, beef with sauce, cheese,” Obama told reporters, according to CBS News’ White House correspondent Mark Knoller.

Elsewhere in the capital, local leaders commemorated the day with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall. Last August, the nation marked the 50th anniversary of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” the protest on the National Mall at which King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

In Atlanta, Ga., hundreds gathered for a morning service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was once pastor, to kick off a day of community projects at 60 sites across the city. Atlanta residents marched from an intersection downtown to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, a complex that includes King’s birthplace.

Amid a spate of recent mass shootings and ongoing violence around the world, King’s daughter, Bernice, called on Americans to honor her father’s philosophy of non-violence by making Monday a “no shots fired” day. “America has an enormous appetite for violence. I don’t know why we have such an affinity for that, but I do know it has to stop,” she told Reuters.

In Birmingham, Ala., where an imprisoned King wrote the 1963 defense of non-violent resistance we know today as his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” residents took part in an annual community march and community service projects, while the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute had free admission for the day.

In Memphis, Tenn., where King was assassinated while in town to support striking garbage collectors in 1968, residents marched in memory. Many carried signs reminiscent of those carried by the striking workers, reading: “I AM A MAN.” Visitors to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis heard a recently uncovered recording of King telling an interviewer about a phone call made by John F. Kennedy to King’s wife, Coretta Scott King. The call is widely seen as a watershed moment in American history, as it signaled Kennedy’s sympathy with the burgeoning civil rights movement.

At the “Kingdom Day Parade” in Los Angeles, people marched down Crenshaw Boulevard under the theme, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us ‘Round,” NBC Los Angeles reports. The theme is a response to recent moves around the country “trying to unravel the voting rights and other gains of the civil rights era,” said parade manager Wendy Gladney Dean.