NEW ORLEANS -- The mayor of New Orleans called on his struggling Saturday to unite in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy as it rebuilds its hurricane-ravaged neighborhoods.
"He would want us to get together. He would want us to start over," Mayor Ray Nagin said during a news conference announcing events scheduled to honor the slain civil rights leader. Civil rights activists and some members of the black community have been among the most outspoken critics of rebuilding proposals that would focus initial efforts on the least-damaged neighborhoods while delaying work on some of the hardest hit, such as predominantly black eastern New Orleans and the Ninth Ward.
Nagin said he is committed to seeing a diverse city rebuilt, and he hoped that this year's King celebrations, beginning Sunday, would focus on the legacy of King and Rosa Parks, as well as those who died as Hurricane Katrina hit the city on Aug. 29 and flooded its neighborhoods.
New Orleans , which before the storm was two-thirds black, cannot be allowed to change significantly in the rebuilding process, Nagin said.
"I'm focused on rebuilding one New Orleans for everyone," he said. City Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis said the call to unity through diversity was especially important this year, "as the city struggles to resurrect new hopes, new dreams."
She said the holiday marking the slain civil rights leader's birthday celebrates equity and justice at a time when many in the city are fighting for the right to return and to prosper in New Orleans .
© 2006 The Associated Press