MLK Day celebrated with symbolic bell ringing

Pat Loeb
January 21, 2019 - 3:29 pm
At the 37th annual opening of MLK Day, Laura Wooten did the honors of ringing in the holiday.

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The 37th annual "opening" of MLK Day took place in Philadelphia Monday, but not in its usual location. The partial federal government shutdown has closed the Liberty Bell Pavilion, where the ceremony has been held since 1986. Organizers were determined to carry on the tradition. 

This year's ceremony took place at the 201 Hotel at 16th and Vine streets, and there was a whole chorus of bells to replace the inaccessible Liberty Bell. 

Jubilee Music Enrichment, which offers free classes to children in Camden, brought its bell ringers to provide music and a small stand-in for the Liberty Bell offered the advantage of actually "ringing in" the holiday. 

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Laura Wooten, 98, did the honors. Host William Tucker of the King Association for Nonviolence gave her notable credentials. 

"She's been a political activist for 79 years. She has never missed a day at the polls in 79 years," Wooten said. 

The noontime bell ringing to open the holiday was created at the request of Coretta Scott King and draws a host of public officials each year, including Senator Bob Casey, who noted the work left to do.

"He would not be satisfied, we cannot be satisfied with where we are but on this day we march toward justice," Casey said. 

The event was also the first time for newly-elected Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. 

"To share the stage with someone who hasn't missed a vote in 80 years, and how much America's changed in her lifetime, how much change needs to still happen. It was just an incredible honor," Fetterman said.