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US marks Martin Luther King Jr holiday

 Martin Luther King III accompanied by his daughter Yolanda Renee King and his wife Andrea Waters King, pose during the Annual Martin Luther King Jr Wreath Laying Ceremony at Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington, Jan 15, 2024. [AP Photo]

The United States observed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Monday with parades, prayer services and volunteer events in honor of the late civil rights icon.

President Joe Biden volunteered at Philabundance, a Philadelphia nonprofit food bank, where he stuffed apples into donation boxes and struck up casual conversations with workers at the hunger relief organization.

In South Carolina, Vice President Kamala Harris encouraged people to use their voices to continue fighting for justice and against attacks on fundamental freedoms.

"Consider in states across our nation, extremists attack the sacred freedom to vote," Harris said. "They pass laws to ban drop boxes, limit early voting and restrict absentee ballots."

She called King "a visionary who saw what could be, unburdened by what had been," and described him as "an organizer who moved the minds, the hearts and the feet of the American people."

At the annual Martin Luther King Day pancake breakfast in New Hampshire, Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan told the crowd that "one of most enduring lessons of Martin Luther King's life is that each of us has the capacity to make a difference."

"Our task is to summon what Dr. King would call 'the fierce urgency of now,' and each — in our own way — do our part to help our democracy," she said. "And in so doing, we can bend the arc closer toward justice and ensure that the dream lives on."

The U.S. government agency AmeriCorps is one of many service-oriented organizations that held events as people across the U.S. took part in community service projects.

Every year on the third Monday in January, Americans honor King, who in the 1950s and 1960s organized nonviolent protests against southern segregation, the struggle for Black equality and voting rights. He was assassinated in 1968.

This year, the holiday fell on what would have been King's 95th birthday. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act and King's Nobel Peace Prize.

In Atlanta, the King Center's annual commemorative service was being held at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King served as pastor.

King's daughter Bernice King told the crowd gathered for the 56th commemorative service that her father's legacy of nonviolence taught the world that "we can defeat injustice, ignorance, and hold people accountable at the same time without seeking to destroy, diminish, demean or cancel them."

King-inspired nonviolence is "a blueprint to make of this old world a new world," she said. "It is a philosophy and methodology that provides us with the courage, the strategy, the discipline to control our impulsiveness, our need for vindictiveness and vengeance, a philosophy to resist injustice with a love-centered way.

"Kingian nonviolence delivers humanity from our most base self and calls us up to a higher purpose to destroy injustice without destroying each other with our words and our weaponry," she added.

In Washington, Martin Luther King III participated in a wreath-laying event at his father's memorial.

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