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Daughter calls for bold action instead of words at King’s Day

ATLANTA (AP) — America has honored Martin Luther King Jr. with a federal holiday for almost four decades, but has still not fully learned and applied the lessons of the slain civil rights leader, his youngest daughter said Monday.

The Reverend Bernice King, who heads The King Center in Atlanta, said leaders – especially politicians – too often devalue her father’s legacy, turning him into a “handy and convenient king” offering simple platitudes.

“We love to quote King during and around the holiday. … But then we refuse to live as a king 365 days a year,” she said at a memorial service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her father once preached.

The service, organized by the center and held annually in Ebenezer, was dedicated to the celebration of the 38th Federal King’s Day. King, who was shot dead in Memphis in 1968 while advocating higher wages and better working conditions for the city’s sanitation workers, would have celebrated his 94th birthday on Sunday.

Her voice rose and fell in rhythm like her father’s, Bernice King bemoaned institutional and individual racism, economic and health inequality, police violence, a militarized international order, rigid immigration structures and the climate crisis. She said she was “exhausted, annoyed and, quite frankly, disappointed” that her father’s words about justice are so often cited alongside “so little progress” on society’s biggest problems.

“He was God’s prophet sent to this people and even to the world to guide us and warn us. … The prophetic word is uncomfortable because it encourages us to change our hearts, our minds and our behavior,” said Bernice King. “Doctor. The King, the inconvenient King, requires us to change our way of life.”

President Joe Biden spoke at an MLK breakfast hosted by the Reverend Al Sharpton National Action Network in Washington. Sharpton began his career as a civil rights activist as a teenager as the Youth Director of the Royal Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Anti-Poverty Project.

“It’s time to choose,” Biden said, echoing themes from a speech he gave Sunday in Ebenezer at the invitation of Senator Raphael Warnock, Ebenezer’s senior pastor, who was recently re-elected to a full term as Georgia’s first black. US senator.

“Will we choose democracy over autocracy, or community over chaos? Love is greater than hate? Biden asked on Monday. “These are the questions of our time that I ran for president to try and help answer. … The life and legacy of Dr. King, in my opinion, point the way forward.”

Elsewhere in Washington, Martin Luther King III attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the national memorial to his father. And Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman of color and incumbent, spoke to volunteers for the Day of Service project at George Washington University.

Thousands of people took part in the march of memory in San Antonio. In Los Angeles, the Kingdom Day Parade is back after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Other celebrations echoed Bernice King’s reminder and Biden’s hints that the “beloved community” — Martin Luther King’s description of a world in which all people are free from fear, discrimination, hunger and violence — remains elusive.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu spoke about advancing the truth in an age of excessive bias and disinformation.

“We are fighting not only two sides, left or right, and a gradient between them that must somehow come to a compromise, but a growing movement of hate, abuse, extremism and white supremacy, fueled by disinformation, fueled by conspiracy theories that are gaining popularity. root at every level,” she said.

Wu, the first woman and person of color to be elected mayor of Boston, said education restores confidence. Quoting King, she called for overcoming “desperation fatigue” to begin change. “Sometimes it’s precisely at those moments when we feel most tired and desperate that we are about to break through,” Wu told those present at the memorial breakfast.

Volunteers in Philadelphia ran projects to prevent gun violence. The city has seen a spike in homicides, with 516 killed last year and 562 the year before, the highest number in six decades.

Some members of the firm’s project, led by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, worked to assemble gun safety kits for distribution to the public. According to the organizers, the kits include “locks for the pistol cable and additional safety devices to protect against children.” They also include information about gun possession, information about health and social services, and how to deal with the aftermath of gun violence.

Organizers say other kits being collected focus on Temple University Hospital’s Fight for Chance program and include materials to enable immediate response to casualties at the scene of a shootout. Recipients should be trained in the use of materials, which include tourniquets, gauze, breast seals and other items to treat critical wounds, they said.

In Selma, Alabama, a prominent site of the civil rights movement, residents paid tribute to King as they recover from the deadly hurricane that hit the south last week.

King was not present at the Edmund Pettus Selma Bridge during the first march known as “Bloody Sunday” when Alabama State Troopers attacked and beat demonstrators in March 1965. efforts that spurred Congress to pass and President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Pettus Bridge was unaffected by the storm on Thursday.

On Monday, the First Speaker of the Maine Black House called on residents to honor King’s memory by joining in acts of service.

“His unwavering faith, powerful nonviolent activism and his vision of peace and justice in our world changed the course of history,” Rachel Talbot Ross said in a statement. Talbot Ross is also the daughter of Maine’s first black MP and former president of the Portland NAACP.

“We must follow his example, guided by light and love, and recommit ourselves to building a more compassionate, just and equal community,” she added.

At Ebenezer, Warnock, who had led the community for 17 years, hailed his predecessor’s role in getting black Americans on the ballot. But, like Bernice King, the senator warned against King’s reductive understanding.

“Don’t just call him a civil rights leader. He was a religious leader,” Warnock said. “Faith was the foundation on which he did everything he did. You don’t look down on dogs and water hoses just because you’ve read Nietzsche or Niebuhr. You have to connect to this thing, to that God he said he met again in Montgomery when someone threatened to blow up his house and kill his wife and his new baby.”

King, in Warnock’s words, “abandoned the comfort of the filter that made the whole world his coming”, turning faith into “a creative weapon of love and non-violence”.

Echoing Bernice King’s call for bolder public policy, Warnock noted some progress in his life. As during the two election campaigns in the Senate, the Waernok noted that he was born a year after the murder of King, when both senators from Georgia were convinced supporters of the segregation, including one Warock, which he described as a loving “Negro” while he was “” in his place at the rear. Door.”

But Warnock said, “Because of what Dr. King did and because of what you did… now I’m sitting in his place.”

— Associated Press journalists Will Weissert in Washington, David Sharpe in Portland, Maine, and Ron Todt in Philadelphia.

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