ATLANTIC CITY — The atrium of the Free Public Library on Saturday echoed with the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

During the weekend before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the library held its fifth annual read-in program, in which participants recited speeches and sermons to honor the memory, legacy and birthday of the civil-rights leader.

“His words and actions inspire us all to this day,” said Robert Rynkiewicz, the library director.

The event drew city officials, residents, teens and volunteers. The Atlantic City High School Choir sang hymns and songs throughout the program.

Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr. spoke at the event, citing several passages of King’s that he calls his daily mantras, including, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Gilliam said he feels empowered by King’s legacy and is a byproduct of his work as the third African-American mayor in the city’s history.

“It is a humbling experience to be a part of this process and to be a living example of his greatness,” Gilliam said.

Atlantic City Councilman Kaleem Shabazz recited King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. But before reading the speech King made during the March on Washington in 1963, he said it continues to provide lessons for everyone today.

“Every time I read this speech, I compare it to the times we’re living in. It’s sad to say that we can use this guidance today,” he said.

Library staff members read King speeches such as “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and the “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution” sermon.

Gilliam and Shabazz both criticized rhetoric by President Donald Trump, adding communities must work together to overcome it.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Trump used vulgar language during an immigration discussion to describe countries in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean.

Shabazz encouraged people to speak out against wrongdoings in society.

William Cheatham, the Atlantic City Library Board of Trustees president, blessed the crowd at the ceremony. He talked about the importance of future generations and the impact King has had.

“Young people, you are our future, all of you,” he said.

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Contact: 609-272-7239 Twitter @ACPressSerpico

Covering breaking news for The Press of Atlantic City since September 2016. Graduate of the University of Maryland, Central Jersey native.

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