On the 45th anniversary of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., hordes of young people gathered at the famed King Center in Atlanta on Thursday to pledge “50 days of nonviolence” at a ceremony spearheaded by King’s daughter and chief executive of the center, Bernice King, reports the Christian Post.
The challenge ceremony calls for young people to shun any form of violence for the rest of the school year.
Bernice began speaking at the exact time of her father’s assassination on April 4, 1968 at 7:01 p.m. “We mark the 45th anniversary of the assassination of my father, Martin Luther King Jr. with a challenge to young people to study, embrace and practice nonviolence. As my father said, ‘The choice is no longer between violence and non-violence. It is either non-violence or non-existence,’ and we believe young people have a leadership role to play in creating a nonviolent society. I hope Martin Luther King, my daddy, did not die in vain,” said Bernice to the crowd of onlookers. “We must repent and change our direction and minds.”
A wreath was also placed right in front of the historical church where Dr. King would preach his powerful and awe-inspiring sermons from the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta, in the same spot where one was placed 45 years ago.
Dr. King was an icon who strived tirelessly for peace and racial equality during a turbulent time for Blacks in this country. On the fateful day he was slain, King had traveled to Montgomery, Ala., to support sanitation workers who were striking for higher wages and improved working conditions. While standing on the balcony outside of his room at the Lorraine Hotel, King was brutally gunned down.
He was only 39-years-old.
King’s gunman was James Earl Ray, a criminal careerist whose segregationist views led him to pull the trigger. He first admitted to killing the Nobel Peace Prize recipient but then recanted his confession. He was unsuccessful in securing another trial to overturn the 99-year sentence he received for his crime. Ray died in 1998 of Hepatitis C at the age of 70.
Students are encouraged to log on to the King Center Tumblr page at http://thekingcenter.tumblr.com/ for daily updates and personal messages.
The conversation about non-violence will also continue on twitter @KingCenterATL with the hashtag #50DAYSNONVIOLENCE.