FORT GREENE, Brooklyn (PIX11) — It’s billed as New York’s largest public celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his life and legacy. The 37th annual commemoration at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, or BAM, was also the city’s most influential MLK Day event. Its keynote speaker said that she was taking advantage of that to show how and why influencing people in power is vital to achieving Dr. King’s legacy.

The event had many of the features that a person would expect at a ceremony honoring Martin Luther King, including gospel singing by the group Sing Harlem and a performance by Grammy Award nominee Allison Russell.

It also had speeches by two of the most powerful people in the country: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both of whom are from Brooklyn.

“We’re gonna fight for social justice,” Jeffries said to a capacity audience in a message that ended up being part of a larger theme about using political capital to effect change in Dr. King’s name.

The theme was perpetuated in the keynote address by former Sherrilyn Ifill, former president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and legal scholar.

She said that even though most people associate Martin Luther King with his “I Have a Dream” speech from the 1963 March on Washington, further meaning about the human rights struggle is captured in four other words from a speech by King at the Lincoln Memorial, at a march six years earlier in 1957.

“‘Give us the ballot. Give us the ballot,'” Ifill quoted King as saying.

She went on to say that that speech is about demanding one thing that’s vital to the current political moment.

“He spoke about power,” she said, “the power of non-violence, about moral power that surfaces the tension in our country.”

The keynote speaker was soon followed by Mayor Eric Adams, who also spoke about power here.

“We have four people of color running the largest cities in America,” he said, referring to himself, and the mayors of Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.

People from across the racial and ethnic spectrum, and from across the city, attended. Many of them told PIX11 News that the event inspires them to do more in their communities and in our country.

Toni Robinson, a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teacher, said that the ceremony empowered her to do more.

“I teach our youth STEM, and I really want to build the workforce,” she said, “to make sure they’re prepared, and ready to take over.

Pastor Edward Richard Hinds of the Rugby Deliverance Tabernacle of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, said that the event at BAM on Monday was motivating.

“It’s about reimaging ourselves,” he said in an interview, “reimagining what our country can be like.”