NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. have been honored throughout Louisiana, with parades and celebrations in cities large and small.

During a ceremony in New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged citizens Monday morning to take action, help fight crime and change a culture of violence that has long gripped the city.

He said some people doubted what King aspired to achieve, but he was steadfast in his goals and change followed.

The mayor said the mission in New Orleans is to end violence.

“What we have on the streets is unnatural,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” the mayor said of the current crime climate.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, first celebrated in 1986, is a federal holiday honoring King’s life and work. It is celebrated on the third Monday in January to remember his Jan. 15, 1929 birthday.

Landrieu and other leaders spoke at a brief ceremony Monday morning at Congo Square, the historic spot on North Rampart Street. In the 18th and 19th centuries, slaves were permitted to gather, trade and dance in the culturally-rich square, which is now ensconced in Louis Armstrong Park.

Parades and other activities were being held in other cities.

Lafayette residents honored the iconic civil rights activist with a weekend of events and an all-day celebration Monday at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center.

In Houma, the Terrebonne Parish NAACP tried to build connections between adults and young people with an event Sunday themed, “Courage Will Not Skip This Generation.”

Diana Collins, the Terrebonne NAACP’s youth director said too many local black kids are giving up on their dreams or not reaching their potential.

“Some of them don’t have the courage to fight. They don’t know where we come from and where we’re going. Without that courage, they’re going to fail,” Collins said.

In Lake Charles, the 28th annual MLK Coalition Festival kicked off Friday morning with the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast at Trinity Baptist Church on Country Club Road. This year’s festival theme was “Southwest Louisiana in Touch with the Dream.”

“Dr. King captured the attention of the world with his ‘I have a dream’ speech,” Faye Brown-Blackwell, the founder of the MLK Coalition, said. “It was so powerful that it still inspires us today to dream.”

Throughout the celebration, area high school choirs performed songs and spirituals. Choir members from St. Louis Catholic, Barbe, Washington-Marion and LaGrange high schools united to sing a medley that included “Lean on Me.”

“What you have seen here is the true community of Southwest Louisiana,” Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach said about the choirs’ performance. “It’s a community coming together to celebrate the dream of Martin Luther King.”