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Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, work honored in Central Islip

The Rev. John Ekwoanya celebrates a Mass in

The Rev. John Ekwoanya celebrates a Mass in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday at St. John of God Catholic Church in Central Islip on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. Photo Credit: Chuck Fadely

Slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was remembered Sunday as a great humanitarian and activist who laid down his life for the good of mankind.

The Rev. John Ekwoanya highlighted King’s accomplishment of being the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He also briefly spoke about King’s assassination during the Sunday sermon at St. John of God Catholic Church in Central Islip.

He told more than 60 people that King skipped two grades in high school before graduating from Morehouse College in Atlanta at age 19, practiced nonviolence and led the historic civil rights movement.

“Dr. King was an inspiration worldwide for young men and women of color. He helped integrate the system and defy the odds. It’s something that will never be repeated,” said East Meadow resident Michael Edwards, 22.

Edwards, a member of the church, also touched on how far African-Americans have come since King’s assassination.

“There’s been progress, but more is needed. You see we have our first black U.S. president. But with that comes plenty of examples of police brutality. And racial profiling is a big issue,” Edwards said.

King was a world-renowned leader during his life, often practicing nonviolent protest modeled after Mahatma Gandhi’s tactics.

King led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 in which it is estimated more than 300,000 people participated, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. He also founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

“This is a beautiful way to honor him, to honor his life and values that he set forth for us to follow,” said church member Ann Marie Brown, 57, of Central Islip. “He was always interested in developing the character of a person, and we try to instill that.”

King brought many people together, said Central Islip resident Darren Whyte, 54.

After being a voice for millions of people around the world, King was fatally shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968.

After the church service, Ekwoanya said: “Based on the history of America, you see he played a great role in the Civil Rights Movement and helped to create awareness. He fought and even died for it, and that is why we remember him.”

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