ATLANTA (AP) – Two of Martin Luther King Jr.’s children on Wednesday marked the 44th anniversary of his death by launching efforts to prevent youth violence.
King Center CEO Bernice King and her brother, Martin Luther King III, announced separate youth violence prevention initiatives with the Centers for Disease Control and The Carter Center.
King, who championed non-violent social change and racial and economic equality, was fatally shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968. The motel is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.
On Wednesday, King’s death was being observed around the country.
In Atlanta, Bernice King and her aunt, Christine King Farris, laid a wreath at the gravesite of slain civil rights leader as part of a remembrance by Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he preached from 1960 until his death. A wreath was also laid by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which King helped create in 1957.
A 3,700-foot section of a downtown Memphis street was renamed Wednesday in honor of King. Linden Avenue was on the route for a March 28, 1968, civil rights march led by King.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was with King at the time of the slaying, said he hopes bloodshed will cease.
“Stop neighborhood killing,” he said. “Stop the violence. Stop suspending our children from schools. Stop the violence. Love each other. Stop banks from foreclosing our houses. Stop the Violence. Keep hope alive.”
Former Memphis City Councilman Berlin Boyd, who sponsored the renaming, said the two-hour ceremony means the city is moving on.
“It symbolizes the city of Memphis is burying the guilt of Dr. King’s assassination and we’re moving forward with the progression and the resurrection of hope of change, and a new perspective on Memphis’ outlook,” he said.
In Washington, a candlelight vigil was planned at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which opened earlier this year. The public ceremony was to include Harry Johnson, president of the foundation that built the memorial, and Arun Manilal Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
Bernice King said the King Center will use its resources to promote community awareness, action and mobilization.
She said the King Center will work with the federal CDC to build its capacity to take a leadership role on youth violence prevention and key health problems affecting minorities and poor communities.
Among the health issues the partnership will address are the prevention of HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer prevention, environmental health issues, birth defects and developmental disabilities such as sickle cell anemia.
The partnership will also focus on the nonviolent conflict resolution that King championed during his lifetime. The King Center plans to sponsor forums, health fairs and other initiatives around these issues.
Martin Luther King III, who recently stepped down as head of The King Center and launched the Institute for Social Justice and Human Rights, held a day-long series of workshops with leaders in government, civil rights, entertainment, medicine and education at The Carter Center on Wednesday.
He said the program is meant to transform what has traditionally been a day of mourning into a day of momentum against youth violence. King’s institute and the CDC-funded Urban Networks to Increase Thriving Youth are launching a two-year initiative aimed at youth violence prevention.
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