NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — To mark the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s birthday becoming a federal holiday, services, ceremonies and parades were held across the area to honor the civil rights leader Monday.
For many, it was a day off from school, but for others, it’s was a day for mentoring.
Hundreds of New York City High school students got five minutes apiece with dozens of top city officials in a so-called speed-mentoring program called “Mentor It Forward.”
Dwayne Leven, 17, of Flatbush got a high-velocity pep talk from Mayor Bloomberg.
“The mayor was telling me about his childhood and education. He told me to stay in school and become something,” Leven said.
Others got one-on-one time with the City’s new schools chancellor, Cathie Black. She said it was a learning experience for her as well.
“They all have plans and blueprints. I am really impressed,” she said. “It’s a little noisy but they were great.”
On Long Island, people came out for a parade and other tributes to Dr. King, including in Long Beach.
Julius Freeman, 84 and one of the of the original Tuskegee Airmen, was the guest of honor at the Martin Luther King Community Center.
Freeman said the United States has come a long way since King was assassinated, but the recent shooting in Arizona showed how far it still had to go.
“No one should be able to purchase a gun without having a test. They should give them a test — a mental test — to see if they’re qualified,” he told reporters, including 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.
He also reminded people what it was like when he was young
“Even when we went into the war in the [1940's], we were segregated. We were not allowed to go into restaurants and eat. We couldn’t ride on buses,” Freeman said.
Speaking at the 26th annual King Celebration in Hauppauge, Rev. Calvin Butts called for a rebirth of the nation, WCBS 880′s Mike Xirinachs reported.
Butts called on the government to invest “money that would be spent on tanks and planes into schools and childcare centers and health care.”
He also called on middle and working class Americans to step up and be counted.
“It means that we assume real responsibility by putting ourselves on the line like Dr. King did,” Butts said.
This weekend, some chose to honor King’s legacy through service. They were repainting the community center at the Lafayette Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“Martin Luther King was all about empowering the community and I feel like to do something that gives back to the community and to make it coincide with MLK Day makes a lot of sense,” said volunteer Rida Fodi.