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Commemorations reflect on King’s legacy, urge nonviolence

Commemorations reflect on King’s legacy, urge nonviolence

REMEMBERING MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. : In this Aug. 28, 1963, black-and-white file photo Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, addresses marchers during his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Photo: Associated Press

(Reuters) – Visions of what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would do to promote civil rights in 2014, had he not been slain decades ago, marked speeches and commemorations held across the country to honor his memory on Monday.

Recalling King’s famous “I Have a Dream,” speech, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the late civil rights leader would want school children to hear it as a call to stay in school and become educated to better the world.

“We need to swap the lesson plan for a dream plan,” Reed told a crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Church gathered for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday.

He said King would want children to hear: “You are not going to school just to study math, you’re going to school to be somebody.”

In New York City, newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio, swept into office promising broader opportunities for poorer residents, said at a tribute: “Dr. King would tell us we can’t wait” to bring income equality to New Yorkers.

De Blasio vowed his administration would immediately “start the work of changing this city.”

At the packed Atlanta church near the Martin Luther King Center, which promotes his philosophy of non-violence, King’s daughter Bernice was applauded for her call to honor his message by making Monday a “no shots fired” day in the wake of school shootings and other gun violence across the nation.

One commemorative event was a buyback program organized by the Atlanta branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the hopes of getting 1,000 weapons off the city’s streets.

King, who 50 years ago received the Nobel Peace Prize, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. He was born on January 15, 1929, and the holiday commemorating his birth was enacted in the mid 1980s.

Many Americans marked the federal holiday by volunteering for service projects and other charity events.

For the first time, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which includes the Lorraine Motel where King was killed, publicly played a recording of a 1960 interview with him discussing the civil rights movement.

Magician David Copperfield donated the tape to the museum in 2012.

KING’S DAUGHTER URGES DAY OF NONVIOLENCE

ATLANTA (Reuters) – People worldwide should honor the memory of Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. by making Monday a “no shots fired” day and ringing church bells in support of non-violence, urged the daughter of the slain U.S. civil rights leader.

Church services and tributes will be held across the United States to commemorate King’s 85th birthday on Monday, a federal holiday. At the same time, there is a push for a new monument and possibly a major movie production from director Oliver Stone.

“Dr. King’s philosophy of non-violence is more relevant, I believe, than it was 10 years ago,” King’s daughter, Bernice, told Reuters.

In a time of school shootings and increasingly violent movies, television shows and video games, his message of non-violence should continue to resonate, said his daughter, chief executive officer of the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King Center which promotes his philosophy of non-violence.

“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 said.

As part of the birthday tributes, the Atlanta branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) began a gun buyback program, hoping to get 1,000 weapons off the city’s streets.

King, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, was assassinated four years later in Memphis, Tennessee.

MOVIE MOOTED

As this year’s holiday approached, lawmakers in King’s home state of Georgia introduced a bill to erect a new statue honoring him on the steps of the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta, five blocks from where he was born on Jan. 15, 1929.

The statue would replace another of the late Georgia Senator Thomas Watson, who was known for his racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic views. The Watson statue was moved late last year to a park across the street from the Capitol.

In another project aimed at examining King and his role in American history, movie director Oliver Stone said in late 2013 he was interested in directing a film about King, with actor Jamie Foxx playing the lead role, according to media reports.

Crowds are expected to gather on the National Mall in Washington, where a 30-foot statue of King was unveiled in 2011. Park ranger Jan Buerger said talks and tours were planned there to commemorate King’s birthday.

The city of San Marcos, Texas, will honor what it sees as two great civil rights pioneers, King and the late President Lyndon Johnson, by inaugurating a monument at the intersection where streets named after the two figures meet.

Johnson went to college at Texas State University in San Marcos from 1927-1930.

In what has been dubbed the Crossroads Memorial Project, an oval plaque will be put up on the corner where streets named after King and Johnson join, bearing the phrase “To Stand up for Another’s Freedom Is To Free Yourself”, written in English and a host of other languages.

“NON-VIOLENT REVOLT”

As a young minister in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, King led a bus boycott that was sparked when Rosa Parks, a black woman, refused to relinquish her seat to a white passenger.

In his autobiography, King called the Montgomery bus boycott “the first flash of organized sustained mass action and non-violent revolt against the Southern way of life.”

He later moved back to Atlanta, where he led the national civil rights movement as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

For the first time, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which includes the Lorraine Motel where King was assassinated, will publicly play a recording of a 1960 interview with him discussing the civil rights movement.

Magician David Copperfield donated the tape to the museum in 2012.

“The national holiday is always a big visitation day,” said Barbara Andrews, the museum’s education director. “Thousands of people will come to pay their respects to Dr. King and the civil rights movement.”

(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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