The nation observed a largely virtual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy Monday amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In Washington, DC, the MLK memorial was closed to the public as tens of thousands of National Guard members descend on the National Mall to secure the area ahead of Inauguration Day, according to emergency management officials.
Instead of the usual outdoor parades and packed services across the nation, officials and religious leaders marked the civil rights leader’s life and legacy in online events.
President-elect Joe Biden participated in a scaled down, livestreamed MLK Day event at the King Center in Atlanta.
Biden recalled accepting the Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum at the former Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where King was assassinated in 1968.
“He lives deep in the soul of our nation,” Biden said in brief virtual remarks. “It’s in our hearts, it’s in our bones, reminding us what we must do. We must not rest.
“It’s our responsibility to come together, all Americans, to bring peace to that restless spirit to tidy up the room left behind. That’s our charge in the days ahead, that’s our charge in the years ahead,” the incoming president declared.
He also urged Americans to sign for virtual or socially-distant volunteer work. Biden and his wife Jill later volunteered at a Philadelphia food bank.
The King Center service also featured streamed musical performances, addresses from interfaith leaders from Baltimore to South Korea, and a stirring homily from Bernice Albertine King, who was only 5 when her father was gunned down.
King said her father could have never imagined the Jan. 6 insurrection, or the extreme social distancing, anger and loss of life and livelihood the country and world are currently experiencing.
“In 2021 we are playing host to what my father called the triple evils he talked about in ’67: racism, poverty and war, or militarism,” she said.
“He understood that the interrelatedness of militarism, racism and poverty are threats to our survival as a world and he knew that we needed a revolution of values to overcome,” the leader’s daughter said.
“My father said hate can not drive out hate, only love can do that,” she added.
On Friday, President Trump released a declaration proclaiming Monday a national holiday. “On this day, I encourage all Americans to recommit themselves to Dr. King’s dream by engaging in acts of service to others, to their community, and to our Nation,” it read in part.