The nation paused Monday to remember the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior, a civil rights icon who would have turned 83 this year had a bullet not cut short his life.Decades after his famous "I have a Dream Speech," waves of his supporters continue to cram into churches across the country for a celebration.
That was the scene in Quincy inside the First Baptist Church, the only Quincy church packed full of hundreds of people.
"I was there when he was assassinated in the city of Memphis, and so as this is a Federal holiday, we're here to remember the dream and things he stood for. It's good to always carry it on," said Rev. James A. Hailey, III.
Both members of the First Baptist Church along with city leaders and area residents filled the room with song and prayer, about a man most had never met.
"It's just important for us to remember we would not be here today if it weren't for the efforts of Dr. King," said Janet Silas, a church member.
Looking at Monday's racially mixed congregation was proof the words of Dr. King extended past his own race.
"The laws that were changing affected a lot of people. Nowadays, we're having civil liberty laws and laws affecting women and people with disability. That all started with the March on Washington and what Dr. King was trying to accomplish," said Annice Mallory, the president of the NAACP chapter in Quincy. "They're proud of how far America has come."
This year, the church decided not to have a keynote speaker, but instead entertained the crowd with a performance revolving around Dr. King's message in schools.
"I think it's great. I think that's exactly what Dr. King would have wanted," said Silas.
"We cannot do it exactly the way he wanted, but we can do it in our own way," said Rev. Hailey. "We must continue the ministry of brotherhood, sharing love and making the world a better place."
The federal holiday to honor King, who was assassinated in April 1968, was first observed in 1986. In 1994, Congress also designated it a national day of service.Like Quincy, Macomb held its annual Martin Luther King Junior march Monday.It was followed by a commemorative ceremony at the Mount Calvary Baptist Church where residents honored the doctor's life.Emmett Hall has walked in Macomb's Martin Luther King Junior parade since he was six years old.Now in college, he believes it's important for all of today's youth to stay informed on Dr. King's past efforts.
"Just like with the older people we have today they started as we were younger and now we have shoes to fill so that this man is not forgotten," said Hall, a Macomb marcher.
The march honoring Dr. King has been taking place for the last 15 years and represents significant moments in the African American community.
"Let's the people know what the marchers went through," said Gregg Huston, president of the McDonough County NAACP."Kids and people had you know fire hoses and dogs put on them and this is to let people not forget what happened in the fifties and sixties."
Older than the march, is the commemorative ceremony which has taken place at the Mount Calvary Church for the last two decades.This years ceremony featured singing, praying and guest speakers all in light of Dr. Kings life.
"He was a minister but he was also our leader in the civil rights movement and he lead the movement that focused on peace and that is reason enough to celebrate him," said Essie Rutledge, Mt. Calvary Church member.
"I just think that us coming together and hearing these messages upstairs that are now taking place I think it builds a relationship between all races," said Hall."We're not here by ourselves we're as one in this community."
Organizers say that the annual celebration of Dr. King's life helps reminds the community of where social justice has been, currently is and where it has yet to go.