PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI/AP) — The most visible leader for the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his campaign to end racial segregation and discrimination with civil or nonviolent resistance, is being memorialized by Americans volunteering their time to give to their fellow citizens, as well as other activities.
Though the day is a federal holiday, with the majority of schools closed along with government agencies, some groups choose to serve “A Day On, Not A Day Off.” Rhode Island College students gathered Monday morning for a breakfast on campus in Providence before fanning out across the state for volunteer activities, including at the Kent County YMCA in Warwick.
Volunteers from the Rhode Island School of Design went to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School on Camp Street in Providence to run a community arts event, offering arts and crafts workshops and games. RISD’s aim was to use service as a mechanism for inspiration and social change.
In Portsmouth Monday morning, relay runners carried a torch from the town’s First Rhode Island Regiment Monument at Patriots Park to Thompson Middle School in Newport. Runners included participants from the Marine Corps Detachment Newport, Naval Station Newport, Naval Health Care Clinic New England, the Naval Academy Preparatory School, and Surface Warfare Officers School.
Dr. King spent his life fighting for equality with a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience, including marches and public speeches. He is most famous for the speech he gave at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, outlining his dream calling for the country to judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
Nation’s commitment to King message
Other events around the country honoring the late civil rights leader included anti-poverty activists in New Mexico and a groundbreaking Cherokee Nation declaration about the tribe’s role in promoting equality.
At gatherings across the nation, activists, residents, and teachers honored King ahead of the 50th anniversary of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.
Officials of the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation recognized the holiday for the first time, and are openly addressing the tribe’s history as slave owners. Months ago, a federal judge ruled Cherokee Freedman have the same rights to citizenship as native Cherokees.
In Atlanta, the Rev. Bernice King will be the keynote speaker at a commemorative service honoring her father at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Near Detroit, organizers will hold a peace walk and celebration.
Federal, state and local offices are closed for the holiday, as are banks and the stock market, and there is no mail delivery. RIPTA said it will operate on a holiday schedule.
The Associated Press contributed national reporting.