About 1,000 persons crowded the District's main library yesterday to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. The slain civil rights leader, after whom the library is named would have been 48 years old today.
Each person at the program, the city's official observance of King's birthday, had his on her own perspective on the event:
Thirteen-year-old Lisa Barlow, who was four when King was assassinated on a motel balcony in Memphis. Tenn., in 1963, said, "I didn't know who he was before I came here today. Seems like he must have been a nice man."
Mayor Walter Washington dressed in a gray suit, sat in the middle of the first of three rows of city officials and religious leaders. "We know we've got a good city and we can do more if we can get together," he said after urging the audience to continue dreaming of Dr. King's dream of racial equality and progress for black people. "We must not let divisive forces pull us apart."
Karen Perry, sitting in the middle of the crowd with her 5-month-old child cradled in her arms. She began crying when a reporter asked her if she thought that people still remember King."It really upsets me," she said. "So many black people have forgotten how to pray. They've forgotten about Dr. King and his work. They talk about trying to create a new Dr. King, but they don't talk about fighting the fight."
She said, "Mayor Washington was right when he said you have to keep on trying to really be free. "The world is really in a mess."
Luther Downs, a 6-year old, was sitting with several friends and singing along with a group of District school students called "Happy Birth day Black America."
"I had heard of him, that man shot him, didn't be?. ." he said. "And he helped that lady when she got on the bus and the white people wouldn't let her sit in the front, and then she sat down and the bus driver, he called the police. Martin Luther King helped her, didn't he?"
Garnetta Harris, a long-time resident of the District, said:
"People couldn't help but remember who he was. It is hard to forget him because so many things he worked for have materialized."
Thus year the state of Maryland and Prince George's Coqunty made Friday a legal holiday to observe the civil rights leader's birthday.
District schools were closed yesterday, but most other Districtr government agencies remained open, as did all other local governments.
Today, there will be a prayer breakfast in honor of King at the International Inn on Thomas Circle at 8.00 a.m. The Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, which is holding the prayer breakfast, is also sponsoring a prayer vigil at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at 4th Street and Michigan Avenue NE at 7 p.m.
The 19th Street Baptist Church and People's Congregational Church are also holding daylong programs in the District today.
In the suburbs, a commemoration is scheduled for tonight for tonight at 7:30 in Arlington at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater, 125 Glebe Rd.