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Monday, January 16, 2012 - 12:44pm

Namesake Center Honors King

A packed house remembered Martin Luther King Jr. Monday at the Atlanta church where he preached his message of justice and civil rights.

Led by his older sister and his daughter, the service mixed spiritual messages with political ones in celebrating the icon who would’ve turned 83 Sunday. The key message was that there’s still work to do.

Using Shakespeare’s line from Hamlet “to be or not to be,” Gov. Nathan Deal challenged the crowd “not to be” complacent and “to be” like King:

“If you want to be, help those who are chained to a life of dependency on drugs and alcohol. If you want to be, help an ex-prisoner get a job and a place to live,” Deal said, echoing some of the policy priorities he had been outlining this year.

Other speakers, including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, advocated for President Barack Obama’s re-election and criticized Georgia’s voter-identification laws.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock is the pastor who stands now in what once was King’s pulpit at Ebenezer. He assailed voter identification laws as an affront to King’s legacy.

“[Politicians] want to praise him while cutting off, dismembering, amputating, the most essential portions of his social vision.”

Saturday night, Martin Luther King III unveiled plans for a "dramatic renovation and expansion" of the Atlanta-based nonprofit King Center, the nonprofit center's first upgrade in three decades.

King said the plans are part of a five-year renovation that would make it an "even more inspiring place for learning and engagement."

The King Center also unveiled a new website Monday and a new online digital archive that includes hundreds of King’s documents.

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