Nation Marks Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Amid New Era of Protests

Nadya Stevens, center, speaks during a rally calling for an end to the NYPD policing policy called Broken Windows, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, outside police union headquarters in New York. The group, called "Coalition to End Broken Windows," said in a press release that the "two-week NYPD slowdown saw arrests and summonses go down dramatically [for low-level crime] and yet crime did not go up. The very premise of Broken Windows."(Photo: Bebeto Matthews, AP)
Nadya Stevens, center, speaks during a rally calling for an end to the NYPD policing policy called Broken Windows, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, outside police union headquarters in New York. The group, called “Coalition to End Broken Windows,” said in a press release that the “two-week NYPD slowdown saw arrests and summonses go down dramatically [for low-level crime] and yet crime did not go up. The very premise of Broken Windows.”(Photo: Bebeto Matthews, AP)
Against the backdrop of ongoing protests around the country over police treatment of black men, Martin Luther King Jr.’s hometown and cities across the USA will celebrate what would have been his 86th birthday today with marches, rallies and service projects.

The flagship commemorative service at King’s former church here, Ebenezer Baptist, will feature a keynote address by Gwendolyn Boyd, the first female president of Alabama State University in Montgomery and former president of the 250,000-member Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Here and around the nation, many will mark the day by feeding the hungry, donating blood or performing some other service to help others, says Steve Klein, spokesman for the King Center.

“More than 2 million people are involved in service projects on the holiday,” he says. “The holiday really has not evolved into a day of barbecues.”

Among other events occurring today:

• In Melbourne, Fla., participants in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace March will walk three miles to the Melbourne Auditorium, where the city’s grassroots Martin Luther King Jr. Coalition will host a program honoring King. A similar peace march organized by the Central Brevard Ministerial Coalition will take place in Cocoa, and a parade is planned in Titusville.

• In Dover, Del., events planned include a lecture on the Underground Railroad in Delaware and a “Tales of Slavery and Freedom” walking tour. A Freedom Tour at the Old State House will highlight the lives of James Summers, a free black man who obtained the manumission of his two slave children, and Samuel D. Burris, a Delaware-born free man and conductor on the Underground Railroad who narrowly escaped being sold into slavery for helping a fugitive slave.

• At Clemson University, where racial tensions were heightened recently after a fraternity Christmas party that mocked black rappers, students will participate in a blood drive and a Day of Service to benefit local social service organizations. A group of black students has called for the university to rename its iconic clock tower building, which is named for former Gov. Ben Tillman, one of the 19th century founders of the school and a white supremacist.

Klein says some feel the events have a special resonance this year. The nation is celebrating King’s birthday as a national holiday for the 30th year, and it comes as hundreds of thousands of young African Americans and others have taken to the streets in cities around the country in protest after police officers were acquitted last year in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York.

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SOURCE: Larry Copeland
USA TODAY

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