CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Just over 57 years ago, in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to deliver one of the most universal speeches of all-time.
His words, “I have a dream that all men will be created equal,” was preached to more than 250,000 civil rights supporters marching in Washington, D.C.
Dr. King’s legacy is celebrated in January. On Monday, his day came just three days after what would have been his 92nd birthday.
On Monday, Dr. King’s words were echoed by leaders across the Carolinas, as well as the nation.
This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. day comes months after protests in cities following civil unrest.
State and local leaders made it a point to shine a light on unity being the key moving forward, no matter the color of one’s skin.
“Dr. King’s words could not be more relevant,” Charlotte mayor Vi Lyles said. “We must come together as a city and as a nation in order to nurture and protect our fellow man. Unity is key to a better and promising future for our country. Let us take today to honor Dr. King and his legacy.”
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper added that the civil rights fight King led more than 50 years ago still looms large in many places.
“The battles Dr. King fought more than 50 years ago still loom large — the fight to eliminate racial inequities in our education, economic and criminal justice systems; the fight for affordable health care; and the fight for equality for all our brothers and sisters,” Cooper said. “As we reflect on Dr. King’s life and legacy today, let us all be thankful for his example and recommit to fighting together for more fair, equitable communities and serving others.”
N.C. Congresswoman Alma Adams said Dr. King’s message was about love and equality, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day should serve as a reminder of that.
“We celebrate a man who helped all Americans achieve the dream of freedom, dignity and equality,” Adams said. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that love is the greatest force of the universe.”
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham added that Dr. King’s message is more prevalent than ever before.
“In these troubled times we need to pursue Dr. King’s dream for America with passion and vigor,” Graham said. “The words of his “I Have a Dream” address mean as much today as when they were delivered. Dr. King is a true American inspiration.”
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott called Dr. King “one of the most important Americans of all time.”
“He lost his life fighting for everyone to be judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin,” Scott added. “We must all ensure his vision is reality.”
North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis added his sentiment and gratitude toward Dr. King.
“I express my gratitude for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts in the Civil Rights Movement,” Tillis said. “His enduring legacy continues to inspire our nation to fight for justice and freedom for all Americans.”
Americans celebrated Dr. King’s legacy in different ways.
In Charlotte, Hope Vibes gave back to the homeless with their Hope Tank, clothing and a place to shower and laundry.
“You’re serving others by many different ways whether giving a smile, encouraging word or in our case giving showers and laundry to those living on the streets,” said Adrienne Threatt.
Emmanuel Threatt says being able to give back to this in need makes a difference.
“Getting a breath of fresh air, I feel like a new person. These are things that are common words that we hear and it goes back to the idea the simplest form of dignity we provide through shower and laundry,” he said.
After the protest and riots related to the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, Greg Jackson founded Heal Charlotte.
With Heal Charlotte, Jackson’s mission is to serve those in need, and create an open dialogue between police, elected officials and the community.
“We want to make sure everybody has a fair shot, no matter what and to bring those opportunities and resources to the neighborhoods that we represent,” he said.
Both say even with a pandemic there is still ways to help. Hope Vibes limits the number of volunteers participating during homeless outreach.
“We all need to learn how to sacrifice, sacrifice what we hold dear to us, sacrifice our privileges,” Jackson said.
“Connecting with different groups who are already doing the group and support it. Get behind it and donate towards it. Even that makes a difference in serving people every day,” Adrienne Threatt added.