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Bristol church celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and legacy

A choir sings during the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration service at Lee Street Baptist Church. (Thomas Gray/WCYB)

Lee Street Baptist Church in Bristol, Virginia celebrated the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The service included churches from across the city.

"Most of the churches are a part of it,” Pastor Willis Johnson said. “They come and they celebrate. We celebrate the life of King, and his ministry and his contribution."

The service included singing, prayer, and a special message encouraging people to continue King's work.

"We want to continue the fight that the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. pushed," event chairman Lawrence Bell Jr. said.

Bell remembered the day King was killed.

"I was in Kingsport working at Mason-Dixon on the dock, and the news came," Bell said.

He said King's work gave him important opportunities.

"Through Dr. King and people like him, I was able to be the first black supervisor at Mason-Dixon on the dock."

As a young man, Johnson heard King speak.

"I've heard him in Richmond,” Johnson said. “When I was at the university there, Virginia Union University, he would come and speak in chapel. Great man, powerful man, anointed, gifted."

The church uses the event as an opportunity to raise money for scholarships.

"We raise money,” Johnson said. “Three or four or five thousand dollars throughout the community, and that money is given to students."

"The last two years, we've given out ten scholarships each," Bell said.

They want to build unity in the city.

"There are problems in Bristol, like any other city,” Bell said. “Hopefully if churches will come together, we can help one another more."

"These occasions help remind us of how far we've come and how far we need to go," Johnson said.

The money raised for this year's scholarships will be given to qualifying students after the end of the school year.

Martin Luther King Jr. day will be officially celebrated on Monday, January 15.

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