Local residents, clergy and elected officials gathered at the Pilgrim United Church of Christ Sunday evening for the City of New Bedford Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day of Remembrance & Community Program.

This year's theme, "A Dream Deferred," emphasized the importance of continuing the fight for and protection of civil rights, specifically through nonviolent means.

In Mayor Jon Mitchell's remarks, he commended his city in being a top model for tolerance and diversity, while continuing to keep true to Dr. King's message.

"As mayor I am proud to say that, more than most places, New Bedford has been true to Dr. King's credo that we should all be judged by the content of our character," said Mitchell. "Our city's diversity, tolerance and sense of right and wrong were planted at our very founding."

Many other officials echoed the significance of Dr. King's legacy and how much of what he spoke about and fought for continues to be relevant today more than ever.

Keynote speaker, Massachusetts State Representative Byron Rushing (D-Boston), professed to the crowd the importance of keeping Dr. King's memory alive. He asked all those who were old enough to have experienced the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's to pass those stories on to future generations.

"Our responsibility is to tell this history to everyone who was not there because when we are gone, if they do not know that history, he (King) will be gone too," said Rushing.

Rep. Rushing went on to promote the use of nonviolent measures to further the fight for peace and equality.

"Through violence you may murder a liar, but you cannot establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you cannot murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that," proclaimed Rushing to a roaring round of applause.

Along with the speaking portion of the program, winners of the annual MLK essay contest were announced and their essays were read. This year's first place winner was Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech High School senior Ja'Loni Owens.

Musical numbers were performed by Belinda McIlvaine, John Harrison III and the Carney Academy Chorus.