Diverse set of projects, tributes mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Service projects and tributes were held throughout Los Angeles County Monday to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day in an effort to fulfill the goal set by Congress in 1994 to make it a "day on, not a day off.''

In Long Beach, volunteers gathered for a rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Park then scattered across the city to take part in a various projects as part of the seventh annual Day of Service.

The fifth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Clothing Collection & Community Breakfast was held at the Hollywood headquarters of the volunteer organization Big Sunday, with hundreds of volunteers sorting and folding more than 20,000 items of clothing, which will be donated to more than seven organizations, according to David Levinson, Big Sunday's founder and executive director.

"Despite what you hear, now, more than ever, most people want to focus on what we have in common,'' Levinson said. "There are so many people -- from all walks of life -- who want to work together to make our world a nicer place.''

More than 700 volunteers joined City Year Los Angeles members at Crenshaw High School, helping to paint 35 murals, 120 college logos and undertake two gardening projects. City Year Los Angeles AmeriCorps members work full time at 28 Los Angeles Unified School District Schools to help students stay in school and on track to graduate high school.

"National service is a common experience that brings people together from all walks of life, and perhaps more than ever before, our country needs more unity and collaboration,'' said Mary Jane Stevenson, executive director of City Year Los Angeles.

Employees of AltaMed Health Services and volunteers participate in the sixth annual Roosevelt High School Beautification Day, working to create a safe and visually appealing space for the students to learn, according to AltaMed President and CEO Castulo de la Rocha, an alumnus of the Boyle Heights school.

University of La Verne students, faculty, staff, alumni and others took part in a series of service projects, including assisting the homeless, spending time with the elderly and mentoring children.

Inglewood's 34th annual commemoration of King's life and accomplishments included a commemorative program at The Tabernacle, with performances by local choirs and community groups along with participation from elected officials and special guests.

The event had the theme "Building Bridges: Embracing Our Diversity.'' A symbolic civil rights march followed the service, ending at the Forum, where King Fest was held with live entertainment and interactive games.

The Valley Interfaith Council's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration will be held from from 5-9 p.m. at the Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church in Pacoima and include a performance by the San Fernando Valley Mass Choir.

"Martin Luther King Jr. Day brings Americans together to celebrate a great man and the power of his message -- the idea that equality is for every woman and man, that only love can drive away hate, that we can resist and defeat injustice with moral clarity, faith, and nonviolence,'' said Mayor Eric Garcetti.

"Dr. King preached in Los Angeles just weeks before the first march from Selma to Montgomery -- and on that day at Temple Israel of Hollywood, he spoke of how the movement often looked to `friends of goodwill' for the courage and inspiration to face down the forces of racial discrimination.

"My wish for Angelenos and people everywhere is that we will be those friends of goodwill, so that the blessings of Dr. King's legacy can be multiplied today and every day of the year.''

In his proclamation designating today as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President Barack Obama declared, ``As we reflect on Dr. King's legacy, we celebrate a man and a movement that transformed our country, and we remember that our freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of others.

"Given the causes he championed -- from civil rights and international peace to job creation and economic justice -- it is right that today we honor his work by serving others. Now more than ever, we must heed his teachings by embracing our convictions. We must live our values, strive for righteousness and bring goodness to others.

"And at a time when our politics are so sharply polarized and people are losing faith in our institutions, we must meet his call to stand in another person's shoes and see through their eyes. We must work to understand the pain of others, and we must assume the best in each other. Dr. King's life reminds us that unconditional love will have the final word -- and that only love can drive out hate.''

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