Martin Luther King Jr. wasn't born a legend and an inspiration, Kirsten Daley told a group of several dozen people gathered at First Church Monday night to celebrate the late civil rights activist on the national holiday named for him.

"Without his commitment to justice and equality, he was a normal human man," Daley said.

Daley, an activist and former president of the University of Maine's Black Student Union, used her platform as featured speaker at Belfast's annual Martin Luther King Jr. gathering as a call to action. Dr. King didn't sit at home and sigh at the news or tweet out the latest tragedy of the week, she said. He gathered those who would stand by him, and he fought for the world that he wanted to see.

"And if you do that," Daley said. "I promise you that they will call you the exact same things that they called him: a traitor, an instigator and a threat. They will paint your resistance in the same colors they did his: naive, ill-conceived, impossible and dangerous."

History vindicates honest efforts, Daley said, but fighting for equal rights wasn't easy then, it isn't easy now, and it never will be.

Bringing the task down to size, she recalled her own attempts as president of the Black Student Union to convince the university's all-white student senate to cough up several thousand dollars for a "hair care fair" for a fraction of the school's 200-plus self-identifying black students to get needed braiding and hair care.

The group was rebuked in its first two requests, and humiliated along the way for seeking charity or extravagance for a tiny minority of students at the university. After a cut-rate first year, Black Student Union members pressed on until they caught the ear of sympathetic administrators, who advocated successfully for the event to get full funding.

"The BSU students did not give up the first time or the second time they were knocked down," Daley said. "And that's the kind of spirit we must maintain … in the face of those who say it's unnecessary, because there will always be those who stand in your way."

Organizers of Monday night's event played audio from several of Dr. King's addresses, including his famous "I Have a Dream" speech from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Attendees sang traditional protest songs, "We Shall Overcome" and "We Shall Not Be Moved." First Church Pastor Joel Krueger remembered Laila Al-Matrouk, a 15-year-old Belfast student activist, who was killed last year when her bike was hit by a car.

The event concluded with a slideshow of civil rights movement martyrs with brief descriptions of the circumstances of their deaths — shot by Klansmen in a passing car, hit by a stray police bullet at a protest march, murdered by whites in an attempt to draw attention away from a civil rights rally.

Organizer Meredith Bruskin said the presentation could have included many more names from recent memory.

Monday marked the 30th year of Belfast's annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. The event was started by the late Percy Daley Jr., unrelated to Kirsten Daley, with Joe Perry and his late wife Lorraine Haynes, who died in 2016.

Perry, a former president of the Greater Bangor Area NAACP, attended Monday's event. Afterward, when asked how far the country has come on civil rights, he echoed Kirsten Daley's call to action.

"We've made some progress," Perry said. "There's no doubt about it. But we still have a heck of a long way to go, and it's going to take a great deal of work from each and every one of us, and we can't be bashful about it."