At center stage, leaders from different faiths each read excerpts of King's writings.
"One day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and little white girls, as sisters and brothers," said Rev. Dr. Joseph Bryant Jr.
Rev. Bryant brings more than the average connection to King's legacy. His mother, Lenora Bryant, was a young school teacher when she marched with King in Alabama. Monday was an emotional one for her.
"It's just overwhelming, really," Lenora said. "Just to see where we are, how far we've come, what we've accomplished, you know. I know we still have a ways to go."
Her son added, "There's still injustice, there's still prejudice in the workforce area. There's still inequality when it comes to housing and job opportunities, and even educational opportunities. So, as long as we're still playing catch-up, the work isn't done yet."
They couldn't agree more at an anti-violence rally at San Francisco's City Hall. Mattie Scott lost her son to gun violence 16 years ago, "We're here to say enough is enough, we want to strive for peace, and celebrate and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday for non-violence," Scott said.
Scott wishes we could take the guns out of young people's hands and replace them with books. Something King would certainly champion were he here today.
This was Nate Williams first time attending an MLK-day celebration. The Los Angeles native says he just finished serving 31 years in prison for a murder he committed when he was 17. He was one of the state's first juveniles tried as an adult. He says he admires King, and regrets his own past.
"Martin Luther King taught me that," Williams said. "You know, all the things they went through, the struggle. You know, you had to be forgiving in order to be non-violent."
A group of St. Ignatius juniors and seniors came to enjoy the day with friends; learning from the past, but focusing on the future.
"We're working on making the future, and not dwelling on all the hardships our ancestors had," student Marques Jones said. "Because through their hardships, our lives are better."
Meanwhile in San Jose, those wishing to honor the late civil rights leader hopped aboard the annual freedom train.
Several parents brought along their children, to teach them about Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.
The train ride ended in San Francisco.