Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) This year marks 30 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day became a federal holiday for the United States.
President Ronald Reagan signed the legislation closing all federal offices and public schools so people could take a day to remember the work of the fallen civil rights leader.
Since then, thousands gather in parks, memorials, and city centers to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr each January.
Malynthia Speights-Nash, vice-president for the Broome NAACP, helped organize the celebration of King in Binghamton's City Hall.
"Students really need to spend time finding out who he was, what he did, and why they actually have this day off from school," Speights-Nash said.
Speights-Nash remembers bringing the holiday to the national level wasn't always easy.
"There [was] some opposition, there was some," she said. "But it was far and few."
Union-Endicott student Briana Alford said taking the day off gives her the time to attend celebrations and learn more about the African American leader.
"If we were just at school, the school's would probably just talk about it and that would be it," Alford said.
Rodrick Luckerson of Endicott said King's day isn't just for African Americans.
"The civil rights movement was for everyone in the world," Luckerson said. "It wasn't just for the Afro-American, it was for every race."
Republican Broome County Executive Debbie Preston said taking a day to remember King is necessary to understand the price paid for today's freedoms.
"I think it's very important we don't forget the sacrifices that were made in order for us to have this holiday," Preston said.
Republican Binghamton Mayor Rich David said the holiday isn't just for remembering history, but preparing the next generation for the future.
"It's important that we work with the youngsters of today so they not only learn about the past, but also prevent this sort of pattern to continue in the future," David said.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968.