Admirers Gather At Memorial For Dr. King's Birthday

The nation is observing the birthday of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On Monday, there will be a ceremony at the new memorial on the National Mall. On Sunday, King's real birthday, his family, civil rights leaders and those who wanted to honor what he stood for, turned out to talk about his legacy.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some Americans took time out from football yesterday to drop by the new memorial in Washington, D.C., to Martin Luther King. It was King's birthday, which we formally observe on this Monday. On his actual birthday, his family and admirers turned out to talk about his legacy.

NPR's Allison Keyes was there.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONVERSATIONS)

ALLISON KEYES, BYLINE: Under a bright blue sky, the Porter family stood at the base of the image of King, smiling; their purple Baltimore Ravens paraphernalia resplendent in the sun.

VALENCIA HERNANDEZ PORTER: It means so much to us because it's us.

KEYES: Valencia Hernandez Porter brought her whole family, partly for the birthday her daughter shares with King. Partly, she says, because her mother marched with him in 1962.

V. PORTER: I just want my children to know what it means...to be free in a country that's for everybody, regardless of your race and your creed.

KEYES: Porter's mother, Grace Hernandez, was proud and excited when she heard they were going to build the memorial here. She'd been wanting to come see it because she remembers having the chance to speak with King when she marched with him in Durham, North Carolina.

GRACE HERNANDEZ: I thought he was very learned and very patient. And he just set such an excellent example for people.

KEYES: Her granddaughter, Meagan Porter, was celebrating her 9th birthday, and said she didn't think her future would have been as bright without King's work.

MEAGAN PORTER: He was trying to make a difference in our country, for everyone to have rights.

KEYES: Her mom added...

V. PORTER: It's the measure of the man that made it all possible for what our country stands for today; for all people to be treated equal and treated fairly, and be loved and accepted for their beliefs and their thoughts.

(SOUNDBITE OF A CROWD SINGING, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YA")

CROWD: Happy Birthday to ya. Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday to ya...

KEYES: The grinning crowd burst into an impromptu rendition of Stevie Wonder's version of "Happy Birthday," which he wrote to honor the human rights activist. People snapped pictures as two wreaths were placed in front of the monument. King's eldest son, Martin Luther King III, was there with his wife and his three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Yolanda Renee.

YOLANDA RENEE KING: Happy Birthday, Papa King.

KEYES: King told the crowd he remembered that on his father's last birthday in 1968, he was planning a poor people's campaign to bring together people of all races, to demand decent jobs with decent pay.

MARTIN LUTHER KING III: It only takes a few good women and men to bring about change - and children and families, I should say as well.

MIRIAM TRAVERS: It takes us citizens to make a change.

KEYES: Miriam Travers and Charles Boyd came from Delaware for the ceremony, and Travers is determined to help keep King's memory alive.

TRAVERS: If we sit back and do nothing then nothing will happen.

KEYES: Boyd notes that King's legacy is for everyone. And even though his dream of equality hasn't been entirely fulfilled...

CHARLES BOYD: We've got a long way to go. But I feel honored and blessed to be here.

KEYES: The couple says people should honor Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday by performing some type of service, and helping to perpetuate change.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YA")

STEVIE WONDER: (Singing) Happy Birthday to ya. Happy Birthday to ya. Happy Birthday...

INSKEEP: On the Martin Luther King Holiday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.