MLK celebration honoring legacy

Published: Jan. 20, 2014 at 3:02 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2014 at 4:05 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Hundreds honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's legacy Sunday at the Morris Street Baptist Church.

Dr. King would have been 85 years old this month and his work for human rights is still an inspiration for many.

"I think it's important that we celebrate our leaders who work so hard," said Suzan Johnson Cook.

Celebrate is exactly what they did during the 42nd annual event in downtown Charleston.

Keynote speaker Suzan Johnson Cook says work for human rights has changed over time.

"Well we see it with the Arab uprising; Arab spring uprising and now social media is the new tool. So we march in different ways," said Johnson Cook.

Johnson Cook served under President Clinton and most recently President Obama. She retired last year after being appointed in 2011 as the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.

"I've been a public servant for all my life and a pastor for 30 years," said Johnson Cook.

Having traveled the world, Johnson Cook says everything Dr. King stood for can still be used today.

"The main thing is to get the message across. So I have an acronym M.A.P.S., messaging and media, A, advocacy and activism and P, planning and policy," said Johnson Cook.

The celebration was put on by the YWCA, a women's organization focusing on eliminating racism and empowering women.

State Senator Vincent Sheheen said, "It's wonderful to come to Charleston because you see the leaders of the community and people from the community, black and white, rich and poor, people from all over the community getting together to celebrate really a legacy of leadership."

The top honoree of the day was former judge Richard Fields.

In 1949 Fields was the first African American attorney to open a law practice in Charleston since reconstruction after the civil war.

Fields said, "This recognition is important to me and I have received a number of awards, but this ranks the highest of them."

Judge Fields was given the Harvey Gantt Triumph Award. Gantt was the first African American to attend Clemson University and first to serve as mayor of Charlotte.

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