Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. and his inner circle moments before his death (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. His oldest son, Martin III, has suggested that people participate in some form of public service in their communities to honor his father.

Here in the District, people remembered King in a variety of ways, recalling his many contributions to our country and the world as a civil rights leader, humanitarian and lover of humankind.

The DC Black History Celebration Committee honored King at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Northwest with news anchor Sam Ford serving as the MC during a moving tribute in word and song.

Meanwhile, Harry E. Johnson Jr., president and CEO, Friends of the Memorial Foundation, led a candlelight vigil at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Southwest. The program included remarks, prayers and music all honoring King’s legacy.

Participants included: U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke; the Rev. Dr. Howard John Wesley, Pastor of Alford Street Baptist Church, Alexandria; and The People’s Community Baptist Church Men’s Choir. The program concluded with a wreath laying at the Monument’s Stone of Hope.

On April 3, 1968, shortly after President Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection, King returned to Memphis where he had been working on behalf of striking sanitation workers. But his ideas of nonviolence had been shattered with Blacks fighting among themselves and others preferring violence to make their voices heard.

Ironically, in a haunting premonition, King told a crowd, “I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. I’m not fearing any man.”

Early the next evening, an assassin’s bullet ended the life of King as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

Over the following week, 125 cities in 29 states and the District experienced riots that claimed the lives of 46 people and led to 35,000 injuries.

Johnson had this to say about the candlelight vigil for King.

“Tonight, we come once again to this hallowed ground not to celebrate but to remember that on this day 49 years ago, the man whom they referred to as the Dreamer gave his life for a cause much greater than he — the cause of Freedom, Justice, Hope, Democracy and Love,” Johnson said.

“We’re grateful for the Life and Legacy of Dr. King. We’re grateful to live in a country where justice, hope, democracy and love are the standard bearers for which we live and are governed. We reflect, reminisce and realize that the Dreamer may have died but his dream and passion to help others lives on … in one of us.”

“We built this Memorial as a living memorial not only to Dr. King but to everyone who ever believed in the hope that lies in each one of us and our ancestors. It serves as a guiding testament to Dr. King’s courage and optimism and as a reminder of own capacity to manifest integrity.”

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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