ATLANTA (AP) - On the first holiday celebrating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. since the death of Coretta Scott King, their eldest daughter urged Americans to be forces for peace and love.
"We must keep reaching across the table and, in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, feed each other," Yolanda King said during a presentation Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church that was part motivational speech, part drama.
King, 51, told The Associated Press the King holiday provides an opportunity for everyone to live her father's dream, and that she has her mother's example to follow.
"I connected with her spirit so strongly," Yolanda King said when asked how she is coping with her mother's loss. "I am in direct contact with her spirit, and that has given me so much peace and so much strength."
The stage and television actress performed a series of scenes that told stories including a girl's first ride on a desegregated bus and a college student's recollection of the 1963 desegregation of Birmingham, Ala.
After the performance — attended by members of the extended King family and Yolanda's sister, the Rev. Bernice King — Yolanda King and her aunt, Christine King Farris, signed copies of their books, and Bernice King posed for photographs with attendees.
On Monday, Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached from 1960 to 1968, was to be the venue for more remembrances and speeches. The keynote speaker was to be Dr. Otis Moss Sr., pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church.
In New York, rallies, speeches and volunteer efforts were to mark the King holiday, some invoking the Iraq War, the conflict in Sudan and local tensions surrounding the fatal police shooting of a black groom.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Gov. Eliot Spitzer were expected to attend a forum, joining Nicole Paultre-Bell, whose fiancee was killed by police in a barrage of 50 bullets in November.
The Rev. Herbert Daughtry, the national minister of the House of the Lord Churches, said he would lead an act of civil disobedience outside the Sudan Mission in New York.
New Yorkers also planned to volunteer on the holiday in a spirit of service, such as knitting blankets for babies born to mothers with HIV/AIDS, painting murals, building homes, revitalizing their community and making fleece scarves for the homeless.
Coretta Scott King died Jan. 31 at age 78. An activist in her own right, she also fought to shape and preserve her husband's legacy after his assassination on April 4, 1968.
Shortly after his death, she founded what would become the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. For years, she worked to establish Jan. 15 as a federal holiday.
"When you see the commitment my parents exhibited ... it was not for fame or fortune," Yolanda King said. "The best sermons are those that are lived."
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