From inspirational songs to youth performances to thought-provoking speeches, dozens gathered inside Ebenezer Baptist Church on Monday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the holiday that celebrated what would have been his 94th birthday.
Channel 2′s Tom Jones was at the service where he said the spirit of Dr. King filled the church as those who gather celebrated not just the civil rights icon’s birthday -- but his legacy.
“He left us a long time ago, but he speaks more powerfully from the crypt than most politicians speak on the floor of the United States Congress,” Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock said, who is also a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist.
The nearly four-hour service featured youth performances, music, and inspirational songs.
There was also a message from Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife who said King’s work changed the course of history.
“He recognized power within each of us to confront injustice,” Kemp said.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said King often preached about how connected we all are.
“Whatever affects one directly affects all of us indirectly,” Dickens said.
King’s daughter Dr. Bernice King said people love to quote her father during holidays and during acts of service, “but then we refuse to live King 365 days of the year.”
And that’s what she urged people to do -- don’t just talk the talk when it comes to her father. Walk the walk as well.
People who attended the service say they left with this message:
“We got to keep the work going because we can’t let it die. We can’t let the work of other people before us let it die. We can’t,” said Leah Gray.
Warnock said he would not have been elected senator if not for the works of Dr. King.
He also reminded those who attended that King wasn’t just a civil rights leader, he was also a faith leader.
A lot of his work was driven by his faith.
Thousands also took to the streets of Atlanta and marched to honor King and continue his fight for racial equality.
Many of the marchers told Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes on Monday that we still have a long way to go.
Some of the nation’s issues Dr. King brought attention to in the 1960s are still an issue for people now.
“Still our voting rights, still the injustices of low-income wage, still police brutality. So many things that Dr. Martin Luther King fought for, we’re still fighting for today, unfortunately,” Yonasea Lonewolf said.
The march started in downtown Atlanta on Peachtree Street and ended at the King Center in Northeast Atlanta on Auburn Avenue.
“We still have a long way to go, but Dr. Martin Luther King did hold the mantle and we’re still holding onto that mantle of his legacy,” Lonewolf said.
Kenny Mullins said he and hundreds of others in his labor union participate in the MLK rally every year and there’s no other place to be to mark the day.
“Dr. Martin Luther King was a huge advocate for organized labor. His whole goal was equality for all,” Mullins said. “He stood up for us and for everybody to be equal.”
Scotty Smart is an activist who fights for civil rights all over metro Atlanta.
“Today is about the service of Dr. King. It’s about continuing his legacy. It’s about being an example for our community, that we are part of a dream,” Smart said.
Even though Rev. Eric Terrell is in a wheelchair and said it was difficult for him to make it out for the rally Monday, he told Fernandes that nothing was going to stop him from sharing his message.
“If we remain asleep -- we are sleeping in a dangerous time. If we remain asleep, the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King is going to become a nightmare,” Terrell said.