NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Groups across the country are celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day by giving back or taking a vow to to ensure the civil rights icon’s dream lives on.

Dozens of events were planned in the New York City metro area Monday.

At the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, helped headline a King celebration, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported. They offered promises of seeking equality for all.

“New York will be a city worthy of Dr. King’s memory,” McCray said.

De Blasio promised to pursue equality.

“We have to live as if he were sitting here with us reminding us of the right path,” the mayor said.

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton also spoke at the event and addressed the hot-button issue of stop-and-frisk, promising to go about policing in a new way.

“As police commissioner of this great department — your police department — we will work together,” Bratton said. “We will work seamlessly so there are no loose threads that threaten to unbind the garment that Martin Luther King talked about.”

De Blasio and McCray also volunteered at a food bank in Harlem on Monday.

Meanwhile, he New York City Coalition Against Hunger spread 150 volunteers across the city for the 13th annual Serve-A-Thon, dishing out food, refurbishing a soup kitchen and educating residents on federal assistance programs.

“We have so much hunger in America and New York City today since we’ve abandoned Dr. King’s legacy,” executive director Joel Berg told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking on Sept. 21, 1964 in London at a press conference. (credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking on Sept. 21, 1964 in London at a press conference. (credit: AFP/Getty Images)

He added that he thinks King would think the level of hunger today is an international disgrace. One in six New Yorkers do not have enough food to eat, Berg added.

“Today is a perfect day for Martin Luther King’s birthday to refocus on his legacy of not just handouts but social justice so everyone can earn enough to be able to feed their own family,” said Berg. “It’s about basic social justice and key to that social justice is making sure all New Yorkers and all Americans have enough food.”

Oralia, of the Lower East Side, is among the more than one million New Yorkers who are going hungry. She told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller she counts every penny.

“What I’ve been doing first is pay the rent,” Oralia said. “So then, I don’t have much left.”

Jameer, a 16-year-old from Harlem, was among the Serv-A-Thon volunteers.

“I’m fortunate enough to wake up in the nice heated home with food on the table, so I might as well help someone else,” Jameer said.

In the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, volunteers pitched in to build a hoop house to help a food bank grow fruits and vegetables.

One volunteer said it’s the least she could do to remember a man who gave so much.

“Just to see the structure and know that you are a part of something that’s rewarding for the community is wonderful,” Angel Smith told Champion.

In Harlem, the National Action Network held a special forum about the state of King’s dream. The line to get inside stretched out the front door. The forum featured speeches from city and state leaders, including state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

“You try to better the community,” Edward Bratten, of Harlem, said of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “I don’t believe in people staying home on Martin Luther King Day, and it just being a day off.”

“We should not take it lightly because it came with a heavy price,” added Eulalee Muir, who attended the Harlem event.

Gabriella Tropeano, 8, of Levittown, begins to make a peace collage in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 20, 2014, at the Long Island Children's Museum. (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

Gabriella Tropeano, 8, of Levittown, begins to make a peace collage in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 20, 2014, at the Long Island Children’s Museum. (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

At the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City, N.Y., kids such as Gabriella Tropeano, 8, of Levittown, made peace collages and learned about the civil rights leader.

When asked by 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera what she learned about King, Gabriella replied: “That he wants to make peace with everyone.”

New Yorkers also have the opportunity to visit an online exhibit from the New York State Museum, which features a newly recovered recording of King from a 1960 speech he gave on the 100th anniversary of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

LINK: Visit the New York State Museum’s online exhibit

The rest of the nation is also marking MLK Day with parades, marches and service projects.

King was born Jan. 15, 1929, and the federal holiday is the third Monday in January.

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