14-year-old activist Yolanda Renee King helped kick off the Embrace Ideas Festival Monday, a weeklong event in Boston ahead of the second observance of Juneteenth as a federal holiday. Yolanda King is the sole grandchild of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

She was part of a discussion called, “In the Footsteps of Giants: Grounding and Growing the Dream.” King told the audience, which included dozens of school-age children, that listening to her grandfather’s sermons helps her maintain her optimism and motivation.

“Sometimes hearing other people say, ‘Oh, this isn't going to get done,’ sometimes it gets to you,” King said, “it gets into your head and you're like, ‘Oh, maybe it won't get done.’ And then you start to feel hesitant. And so sometimes I have to listen to the sermons … to really just sort of keep on going.”

King said she was in Washington, D.C. last weekend for a rally for gun safety. People rallied across the country on the heels of the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y. last month, and the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

“We were really trying to demand that Congress pass certain pieces of legislation that will make it harder for someone to purchase a weapon and go into a school and shoot children,” said King, “because kids, like we shouldn't have to be scared. And really, no one should have to be scared to go anywhere ... I think that is utterly ridiculous. So we need to make sure that our next generation does not have to be affected by the failure of our other generations.”

King also emphasized that civil rights work is, as she put it, “a marathon.”

"That was kind of hard for me to learn,” King said. “I wish I could just snap my fingers — if anyone has seen ‘The Avengers,’ Thanos destroys the world — I wish I could just fix the world with my fingers. But you have to really eventually stay with that marathon. And sometimes marathons can be hard … and now I feel like I'm almost running the marathon, though I'm nowhere near done.”

This weeks’ Embrace Ideas Festival is sponsored by King Boston, the nonprofit behind the new memorial on Boston Common to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. The memorial broke ground in April and is scheduled to be unveiled next year. It features a 20-foot-high, bronze sculpture called The Embrace, and is based on a photo of the Kings embracing when Martin Luther King Jr. learned he had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

“Memorials are about culture, they're about setting the stage,” Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of King Boston told GBH News. “The Embrace is about belonging. And so this idea of this new federal holiday, Juneteenth, [it is an] opportunity to have the values and the customs of Juneteenth be about belonging, be about ideas, being about inclusion, being about anti-racism and being an opportunity for Boston as one of the storytelling cities of America to demonstrate, not only to the Commonwealth but to the world, that Boston can begin a world post-pandemic as a place where everyone's invited, everyone belongs.”

GBH is a sponsor of the Embrace Ideas Festival.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.