Long Islanders pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy
People across Long Island celebrated and honored the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. legacy Monday.
That included one man who met King just days before his assassination.
"From that day, my life was changed," said Vietnam veteran John Henry Simpkins Jr. about March 26, 1968.
He was 18 years old when he shook hands with and met King during a visit to Long Beach.
"We heard him speak, and for me it was a profound awakening because I was listening to what he was saying and it touched me," Simpkins says.
Just 9 days later, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, which sent shockwaves throughout the nation and the world. But Simpkins was determined to keep the civil rights leader's legacy alive.
A march in honor of the civil rights pioneer through the streets of Long Beach ended at the Martin Luther King Community Center on Riverside Boulevard -- a center that Simkins helped to build.
In Hempstead, the ceremony also focused on the continuing fight for equality as well as voting rights.
"If we're going to celebrate this day, we have to make sure we support voters rights. It is so important that's what Martin Luther King stood for and so we have to make sure that we support it," said Village of Hempstead Mayor Waylyn Hobbs.
Many people at the Hempstead ceremony said voting rights must be protected and a landmark bill that sits before the U.S. senate right now would give the federal government more oversight in setting voting regulations.
"We have to do our part and stand up and our voices are heard that everyone has a right to vote," said Rev. Stephanie Washington, of the Faith Baptist Church.
The bill is expected to go before the Senate in the coming days.
News 12 Long Island reached out to Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin's office. He said, "Every eligible American's right to vote should be protected. The truth of the matter is that Democrats are trying to orchestrate a federal takeover of elections that would require same day voter registration in all 50 states, allow convicted felons to vote, ban meaningful voter ID laws and force taxpayers to fund political campaigns. I totally disagree with the far-left. I support making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. President Biden comparing those who disagree with his party's far-left proposals to traitors and segregationists is disgusting and unpresidential."