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On MLK Day, Biden says Americans need to commit to King’s work

ATLANTA (AP) - Americans must commit to the unfinished work of Martin Luther King Jr., provide jobs and justice and protect "the sacred right to vote, a right from which all other rights come," President Joe Biden said Monday.

Martin Luther King Day is a moment when a mirror is held up against America, the president said in a video speech.

"It's time for all elected officials in America to make it clear where they stand," Biden said. "It's time for every American to stand up. Speak out, be heard. Where do you stand?"

Major events for the holiday also included the annual Martin Luther King Jr. service at the slain civil rights leader's Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, whose senior pastor, U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, hosted Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and other politicians. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and members of the King's family made remarks in Washington.

Monday would have been the 93rd birthday of Pastor Martin Luther King Jr., who was only 39 when he was assassinated in 1968 while helping paramedics strike for better pay and safety at work in Memphis, Tennessee.

King, who delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech while leading the March in Washington in 1963 and being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, considered racism inseparable from alleviating poverty and stopping war. His insistence on non-violent protest continues to influence activists pushing for civil rights and social change.

The US economy "has never worked fairly for black Americans - or in fact for any colored Americans," Finance Minister Janet Yellen said in a speech on Monday, one of many national leaders acknowledging unmet needs for racism on Martin Luther King . Day.

Yellen referred to King's famous speech in remarks she recorded for delivery at Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network lunch in Washington, noting the economic metaphor he used when describing the founders' promises of equality.

King said on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that "America has defaulted on this letter of indebtedness as far as its colored citizens are concerned." He called it "a bad check, a check that has come back, marked insufficient funds. But we refuse to believe that the Bank of Justice is bankrupt!"

"It's compelling rhetoric, but I also think Dr. King knew it was more than a metaphor. He knew that economic injustice was tied to the greater injustice he was fighting. From reconstruction to Jim Crow to today "Our economy has never worked fairly for black Americans - or really for any colored Americans," Yellen said.

She said the administration of President Joe Biden has tried to ensure that no financial institution fails to work for people of color. Equity was built into the U.S. rescue plan so colored communities would receive pandemic relief, and the Treasury Department invests $ 9 billion in community development financial institutions and minority custodial institutions traditionally poorly served by the financial sector.

"There is still a lot more work that the Treasury needs to do to narrow the racial wealth gap," she said.

King Center said the service at. 10, featuring a keynote by Pastor Michael Bruce Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, would be broadcast live on Atlanta Fox's affiliate and on Facebook, YouTube, and Atlanta's planned events also included a march, a rally and a voter registration of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda and Youth Service America.

"On this royal holiday, I urge us to change our priorities to reflect a commitment to true peace and an awareness of our interconnectedness, interdependence and interconnectedness," King Center CEO Bernice King said in a statement. "This will lead us to a greater understanding of our responsibilities to and for each other, which is essential for learning to live together, achieve 'true peace' and create the beloved community."


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