Local dignitaries and politicians filled the rotunda of the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis on Monday for the city's 44th annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The city's celebration is the second-oldest in the country, behind only Atlanta. In addition to celebrating the slain civil rights leader, who would have been 83 on January 15th, most speakers also rejoiced in the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, who took the oath of office in Washington, DC as the proceedings took place.
"We celebrate and remember the dream," said the Rev. Gwendolyn Lee, who delivered the invocation. "And we celebrate the reality of the dream as we celebrate President Barack Obama."
The ceremony's theme focused on the continuing struggle for civil rights, even after the end of legalized segregation. James Clark, of Better Family Life, told the crowd he carries two bullets around in his pocket to be reminded daily of the biggest threat to young African-Americans today.
His new dream, he said, begins in "dark and fractured" neighborhoods.
"We need neighborhood where our children can play until the streetlights come on," he said, to shouts of praise. "We need neighborhoods where our most important people, which are our senior citizens, can live in peace. Our senior citizens live as prisoners in our own neighborhoods."
It'll be Sam Dotson's responsibility as the new police chief to improve neighborhood safety. Dotson, who became chief Jan. 1, says he is inspired in his job by one particular line from King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
"He said, 'we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt,'" Dotson said. "I'm here to make certain that we protect the rights of all people with the same vigor and determination that Dr. King did, and you have my word as police chief and the men and women of the police department that we will do that every day."
The celebration included a march to Powell Hall for an interfaith ceremony