- Associated Press - Monday, January 20, 2014

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) - About 1,000 people gathered to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Pine Bluff on Monday, speaking about the civil rights activist’s influence and renewing their commitments to being active in the community.

Isaac Farris, a nephew of King, spoke at the event at the Pine Bluff Convention Center, emphasizing the universality of his uncle’s message.

“My uncle’s dream was not a black dream, my uncle’s dream was an American dream,” Farris said, and also mentioned that King spoke in 1958 at graduation ceremony at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

He also spoke about the day’s theme of performing community projects.

“This is not a day for you to chill. It’s a day for you to serve others,” Farris said.

The Pine Bluff event was followed by a downtown parade and was among many events across the state, including the annual “marade” in Little Rock, which combines the elements of a march and a parade.

Alice Morrow, 58, of Pine Bluff said she appreciated the speakers’ words.

“Some of (King‘s) dream has come true. Black and white kids play together,” she said, but added that an undercurrent of prejudice is still evident.

“It’s whatever you teach in the home,” Morrow said.

James Ellison, 62, of Pine Bluff volunteered as an usher at the Convention Center event. He said it’s important to remember King’s message of nonviolence.

“Meekness is one of the characteristics we don’t have in this society today,” he said. “The key is you’re able to function without retaliation in spite of what’s been done to you.”

Gov. Mike Beebe began his remarks by asking, “Why do we do this every year?”

“We end up talking about the same stuff, we end up quoting the same speeches,” he said.

The governor recalled the harshness of segregation and reflected on the 50th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 2007. He hosted the nine black students who broke the color barrier at the Governor’s Mansion.

Beebe alluded to - but didn’t name - Gov. Orval Faubus plotting in that same mansion to keep Central High white.

“They (the Little Rock Nine) were sitting in the very same living room where, 50 years earlier when they were kids, a governor sat in that same room and thought about how to keep them out (of Central High),” Beebe said.

Beebe said that multiple generations were in the audience and young people need to be taught about King and the struggle for civil rights.

“That’s why, January after January, we celebrate Dr. King,” Beebe said.

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