GARY | The youngest child of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. took to the pulpit Saturday, telling young people they are no different than her father was.
"You have the power to make a difference," Bernice King said. "You are a king, too."
King's visit to Van Buren Missionary Baptist Church in Gary was part of Keeping the Dream Alive Youth Rally 2013 and Beyond – Moving from Rhetoric to Action.
The events, at various Gary and Hammond locations, centered on mobilizing young people to make positive change in their communities.
"Everything that you enjoy doing was made possible because young people just like you stood up for freedom in my daddy's age," King said. "The people who made it possible and sacrificed so you can have the freedom to go to the movies and sit in any seat you want to sit in were young people just like you."
King challenged the students to take the action needed to make a difference.
"The question is do you realize what you have inside of you and, more importantly, are you releasing what's inside of you?" she said. "It's one thing to think about something, but it's another to do something. The reality is thoughts aren't enough."
King said her father could not have accomplished what he did if not for the countless unknown Freedom Fighters who assisted in his cause. She is working to honor those nameless civil rights supporters with a new Freedom Force honoring the movement started with Rosa Parks in 1955.
Students involved in the symposium received Freedom Force T-shirts.
Katie Goodrich, 18, a senior at Gavit High School in Hammond, entered an essay contest for the event.
Meeting King "brings my education to life," she said. "It's real now."
Mark Lambert, a social studies teacher at Aspire Charter Academy in Gary, is part of the Keeping the Dream Alive project.
"Kids need to see, especially where I teach, people in positions of power but also regular positions," Lambert said. "With my eighth-graders, it's only been 50 years since the march on Washington, but it's ancient history for them. We need to make it real for them today."
The day continued at Indiana University Northwest in Gary with the Dream Symposium, which brought together middle, high school and college students for workshops on education, volunteerism, health, political action and entrepreneurship led by local elected officials.
Shawn Woods, a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and Chicago native, presented the keynote address at the symposium. Like King, Woods called on the youths to take action to make their dreams a reality.
Woods told his story of growing up in Chicago's projects as the youngest of 11 children, carrying a gun and nearly losing his foot in a car crash. He rose above and went on to get his education and lead a successful real estate company.
"In order to be successful, you have to stop thinking and you have to start doing," Woods said.
The sessions will lead to calls to action carried out throughout the year, culminating in a march in Washington, D.C., in 2014 from the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.