U.S. marks MLK holiday with speeches, service, Oscar boycott

Mon Jan 18, 2016 7:57pm EST
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By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) - President Barack Obama packed books for schoolchildren on Monday to commemorate slain civil rights leader the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., and King's daughter said his dream of equality had yet to be realized.

The visit by the president and first lady Michelle Obama to a Washington school was among a raft of speeches, tributes and parades on the 30th anniversary of the U.S. holiday commemorating King.

Bernice King, daughter of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, told a standing room-only crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where her father had preached, that blacks faced the erosion of voting rights, environmental injustice and rising gun deaths.

"What would my father say?" asked King, who was frequently interrupted by deafening applause. "He'd say, 'What is taking you all so long?'"

She added, "Now is the time to be resilient, now is the time to be determined."

Coinciding with the King holiday, African-American director Spike Lee and actress Jada Pinkett Smith said they would boycott the Academy Awards ceremony because black actors had been shut out of Oscar nominations for a second straight year.

In Washington, the Obamas took part in a community service event at Leckie Elementary School, which has a large proportion of students from military families. The event included preparing a garden bed and packing bags with books, the White House said.

In Columbia, South Carolina, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley addressed a King rally at the state capitol a day after their party debate in Charleston.   Continued...

People take part in a march following the National Action Network (NAN) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Public Policy Forum in the Harlem section of New York January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid