Churches across the United States are holding services to commemorate the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King, recalling his dream that all Americans, regardless of color, can become one.
As an associate pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in his birthplace Atlanta, King’s movement has reached out to the local community. King would have turned 77 on Sunday if he was not assassinated in 1968. The 38th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Service is being held in his Church today, according to the Associated Press (AP).
As Christine King Farris, the sister of Martin Luther King, delivered her speech, attendees stand after the presentation of their colors.
President Bush celebrated the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Monday by taking in a gospel performance and viewing the Emancipation Proclamation, AP reported. The document was signed by Abraham Lincoln declaring the end of slavery in the midst of the Civil War on Jan. 1, 1863.
"It seems fitting on Martin Luther King Day that I come and look at the Emancipation Proclamation in its original form," Bush said.
"Abraham Lincoln recognized that all men are created equal. Martin Luther King lived on that admonition to call our country to a higher calling, and today we celebrate the life of an American who called Americans to account when we didn't live up to our ideals," he continued.
King has been an advocator of equal rights of black Americans since he was in his 20’s. As King actively spoke in the public and meeting many government officials to stress on racial equality, he often received threatening calls and bomb attacks, but he has always called for peace and non-violence instead of retreating.
King was made into a legacy as he delivered his infamous speech "I Have a Dream" in August 1963 for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march, supported by all major civil rights organizations as well as by many labor and religious groups, has attracted more than two hundred thousand demonstrators to the Lincoln Memorial.
After the march, King and other civil rights leaders meet with President John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House.
King received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1964. His life ended in 1968 when he was shot at the neck during his speech on the balcony of his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
King’s sacrifice has not been in vain. According to AP, racial integration has swept across much of American life, particularly blacks have gained economic ground since the height of the civil rights movement.
"We've made great progress over the last 50 years," Julian Bond, national chairman of the NAACP, told AP. "Progress has always been stop-and-start, and sometimes backup. We're in a holding pattern right now."
NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is a civil rights organization for ethnic minorities in the U.S.
However, AP-Ipsos poll found that three-quarters of those surveyed say there has been significant progress on achieving King's dream, compared to only 66 percent of blacks agreed with that.
David Bositis, an analyst of black issues for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said that maybe explained by the education level, according to AP.
"For a big portion of the African-Americans, there's not better education. There have been some gains made, but it's uneven," he said.
Speaking on the 16th Annual Rainbow PUSH Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast in Chicago on Monday morning, Rev. Jesse Jackson told the audience that blacks are free but not equal in life expectancy, access to education and infant mortality. Jackson urged the breakfast's 2,000 attendees to continue to fight for change, according to AP.
On Sunday, hundreds of believers packed a church in Simpsonville, S.C., Jackson also said all Americans, regardless of color, creed or age, have an obligation to carry out Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy, AP reported.