As the city geared up to observe Martin Luther King Day, the Apollo Theater got the festivities started early on Sunday by celebrating two men who helped give the civil-rights icon his start.
The NAACP held an event titled “Unsung Champions of Civil Rights from MLK to Today” at which it honored E.D. Nixon, who asked a then-26-year-old King to help lead the boycott of segregated bussing in Montgomery, Ala.
“He was the person that really called Dr. King,” NAACP president Dr. Hazel Dukes said. “And so that’s how Dr. King was found. Not by media. Not by big names but a man who organized the Black Pullman Porters.”
Nixon tapped King in 1955 to lead his newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association — which would steer a 13-month boycott of the city’s segregated buses.
The group also remembered Johnnie Carr, who helped Nixon convince King to take the position.
“We’ve been working hard trying to get people to listen to us — we believe you could be that voice of hope and reason for us here,” Carr, a childhood friend of Rosa Parks, told King, according to Dukes.
About 1,000 people attended the talk, which came on the eve of Martin Luther King Day.
A slew of events were scheduled around the city for New Yorkers to reflect on King’s legacy.
The city’s movers and shakers will be jumping between the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 33rd-annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the National Action Network’s blow-out in Harlem — where the Rev. Al Sharpton and company are expecting a bevy of big names, including US Sen. and newly announced 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as Sen. Chuck Schumer, Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
The BAM event includes a keynote by social-justice organizer Tarana Burke and will also feature musical performances by Oddisee and The Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir.
De Blasio and Johnson are both expected to deliver remarks at the NAN event, which is being held at its Harlem House of Justice Auditorium.
Service-oriented New Yorkers can volunteer with the Parks Department to clean green spaces in Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx.
The Manhattan Country School will mark the holiday with its 31st annual march from Frederick Douglass Circle in Harlem to the primary school’s campus on West 86th Street. Most government offices will be closed.
Additional reporting by Carl Campanile and Rich Calder
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