In some editions yesterday, a photo caption with a Metro article about Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations mistakenly identified a minister in the picture as the Rev. Imagene Stewart. Stewart was not in the photo. (Published 01/18/2000)
From a podium at Montgomery Blair High School, Courtenay Miller belted out words yesterday that echoed those spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
"Let my people go. We need justice and we need it right now," he said.
Nearly 40 years after King's historic speech, not only was the language similar, so is the battle that Miller, a pastor at Norback Community Church, was talking about fighting--for economic justice.
About 600 people rallied at the school to hear religious and political leaders argue the need for a "living wage" bill--a movement that seeks to raise the minimum wage. They roused the audience by invoking the memory of King, who was trying to begin a similar movement before he was gunned down in 1968.
All around the D.C. metropolitan area, people flocked to church services, concerts and other events to celebrate the memory of King, who would have turned 71 on Saturday.
At Washington National Cathedral, Jesse L. Jackson gave an emotional sermon, reminding worshipers of King's dream to "challenge the law, and not allow the law to limit a dream."
"He dreamed not just for the privatized notion of content of character over color of skin. He dreamed of the public policy notions," said Jackson, a former aide to King. "His movement required courage and risk to change the law."
Jackson urged churchgoers to keep their own dreams alive in honor of the civil rights champion. "Dreamers are not afraid to die. They're not afraid of controversy," he said.
At Metropolitan AME Church in downtown Washington, Rabbi David Saperstein, a longtime activist for social justice, led the church's annual interfaith prayer service with about 100 schoolchildren taking part in the celebration.
Back in Montgomery County, those attending the rally said that King's words and legacy inspired them to take up the living wage issue, arguing that at a time of economic prosperity, workers should not continue to be paid substandard wages.
"Our campaign for the living wage is a continuation of his struggle," said Roz Pelles, a member of the Montgomery County Rainbow Coalition. "We are part of the legacy of Dr. King."
"It's a justice issue," said Beth Brush, 32, an employee at the Center for Poverty Solutions, a nonprofit group. "People can't survive on what they're paid. He [King] was fighting for justice."
On stage were local political and religious leaders. Behind them were banners that read "Dr. King's Legacy: Living Wage Now." In front of them were audience members singing songs with lyrics such as "Gonna fight for a living wage down by the council door" and cheering loudly each time a speaker said King's name.
Joining in the clapping were dozens of young people who were not alive when King gave his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial. They said his words and actions moved them.
"He's a great man," said Raymond Gibbs, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Maryland. "I wish I could have been there to hear his speech. It was inspirational."
Gibbs said he has decided to honor King's legacy by co-founding a volunteer group on campus and supporting the living wage movement.
"None of us would be in the position we're in if it wasn't for Martin Luther King," said Shawn Armstrong, 19 and Gibbs's classmate at U-Md. "Life should be about helping other people."
"It's a great tragedy when we teach our children about Martin Luther King and talk about the civil rights movement, and we ignore the economic lines that separate us today," said Claire Sandberg-Bernard, 16 and a Montgomery Blair High School junior.
Attia Goheer, 17, chose to celebrate King's holiday by "fighting for equality," she said.
"When he died, he was fighting for equality for all humans," she said. "That's definitely not the way things are now. Everybody is not equal. We're fighting for equality."
Staff writer Jamie Stockwell contributed to this report.
CAPTION: Rabbi David Saperstein, left, the Rev. Vernor Clay and the Rev. Clark Lobenstine chat during a service honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Metropolitan AME Church.
CAPTION: The Rev. Imagene Stewart, left, the Rev. Charles Harvey of Metropolitan AME Church, Rabbi David Saperstein and the Rev. Benedict Faneye sing during an interfaith service honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.