The area’s commemoration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. assumed a variety of forms and expressions Monday.
The scheduled events in the two Kansas Citys — including a breakfast, a parade and youth rally and a community forum — took place throughout the day.
They concluded Monday night with a celebration of song and praise at St. Stephen Baptist Church, 1414 E. Truman Road. Meanwhile, Independence and Lee’s Summit scheduled celebrations of their own.
Throughout the day, speakers made countless references to the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, which coincided with the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
At the late-morning parade and youth rally, a portion of the inauguration, including Beyonce singing the national anthem, was shown on a screen.
Young people braved whipping winds and frigid temperatures to march the short route from Bethel AME Church to the gymnasium of Success Academy at Anderson at 16th Street and Forest Avenue. They were joined in the parade by clergy and civic and community leaders. Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Steve Green was the grand marshal.
Before the rally, Green said today’s youth must appreciate the sacrifices of King and others and understand that they have to complete that unfinished work.
“We have to make sure that young people inherit the struggle (for economic and racial equality) and not only the struggle to maintain what we have, but also to advance the struggle, as well,” he said.
Monday marked the 27th national observance of the slain civil rights leader’s birthday. King would have turned 84 on Jan. 15.
In the Northland, a crowd filled the John Gano Memorial Chapel at William Jewell College for the 29th annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in Liberty. Organizer Cecelia Robinson said the program was moved back two hours to allow people to watch the inauguration.
The event focused on the 50th anniversaries of the historic March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, and of King’s “Letter From the Birmingham Jail.”
Remarks by educator and radio host Carl Boyd were peppered with poetry and song. The crowd often joined Boyd in sing-alongs and raps.
Boyd said that while some in the crowd were familiar with those songs, others were not. He said the younger and the older generations are divided, and the gains of the past civil rights era will not be fully realized until the older generation is willing to pass the baton of leadership.
“How can we want them to become what we want them to, when we are not what we need to become for them?” he said.
At the mass celebration, André T. Butler of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City said poverty ravages the urban core and those who follow King’s teachings must help the needy.
“Each of us has a role to play in bettering our community,” Butler said.