Marches, programs celebrate Martin Luther King Day

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Politicians, ministers and contemporaries of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. evoked the memory of the slain civil rights leader on the national holiday honoring him and urged Ohioans to continue King's work.

"We're making great progress, but we're still far from the promised land," Gov. Bob Taft told a crowd of about 3,000 people at a breakfast Monday in Columbus. "So we must keep Dr. King's
dream alive in our hearts and in our deeds."

King, who was shot to death in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968, would have been 74 last Wednesday. His birthday became a federal holiday in 1983.

More than 1,000 people met on Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati, where there was a prayer by one of King's colleagues, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, before a march.

About a dozen protesters carried signs at that rally and at a fund-raising breakfast, formerly named to honor King but changed this year at the request of his family. Those backers of an economic boycott of the city objected to the breakfast being held downtown.

Dr. Spencer Crew, executive director of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, urged the breakfast audience of about 700 to think about being "allies" to change rather than

"Bystanders are those who watch life go by. They don't want to get involved. They don't believe what happens to others impacts their lives," Crew said. "Allies are more proactive. They believe they have a mission in life to make the lives of others better."

Mayor Charlie Luken said the holiday was a good time for communities to measure their progress in race relations.

"It is important that we in Cincinnati recognize that we are not to the mountain top," Luken said. "But we are on that difficult road up the mountain."

In Dayton, thousands of people met at different points of the city and marched to downtown. Curtis Mann III, vice president of Wright State University's Black Student Union, noted that had not been born when King was slain.

"Martin Luther King stood up for me before he even knew about me," Mann said. "I want to represent for him."

In Toledo, about 1,000 people attended a luncheon sponsored by the city and University of Toledo.

In Youngstown, the Interracial and Interfaith Clergy Dialogue Group held its annual observance featuring Bible readings and representatives from Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities.

About 400 adults and children attended a program at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce.

There were marches in Steubenville, Sidney and Troy, where Susan Good and her two pre-teen sons joined in.

"The boys have been learning about Martin Luther King Jr. in school," said. "I thought it was important for them to march today."

Students from Central State and Wilberforce universities near Dayton joined in a four-mile walk.

Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, spoke at Wittenberg University about racial inequality and terrorism, and criticized the Bush administration for its stance on affirmative action.

Although there have been some advances in civil rights in the past four decades, people still preach integration and practice segregation, he said.

"Fewer blacks working today is an indictment of our time and our failure to keep the movement going," Bond said. "Today we often look for someone to lead us. Yesterday it was the people's
movement. Those were the days when the people chose the president, not the Supreme Court."

Observances spanned the weekend.

"We celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday because he had courage," Albert Brinson, an executive with the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., told participants Sunday night at Denison University.

"One of the things we pause here to do is to give thanks to God for a man whose very presence changed the course of our world," Brinson said.

In Akron, the University of Akron's celebration was to include a lecture Monday night by King's widow, Coretta Scott King.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)