Communities across the country honored and celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday as a pioneer in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the man who dreamed of a world where his four children would not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
The Valley Stream Religious Council hosted its annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration Monday afternoon at the Valley Stream Presbyterian Church on South Central Avenue. Dozens of religious leaders and community members attended the event, which featured singing, dancing and speeches.
The Rev. Kirk Lyons, of the Brothers Keeper Organization, was the event’s featured speaker. Brothers Keeper has established a street ministry called Boots on the Ground, where they lead a team of men every Friday at midnight through some of the more violent neighborhoods in Hempstead to pray for young men.
Lyons delivered an inspired message that kept everyone in the audience entranced. “Today is not just about remembering Martin,” he said. “If we reduce this day to that, it functions as mere memory and less of a reminder. You see, memory emphasizes our distance from the past. The reminder connects us to the past; it recalls our responsibility to [the past].”
Monday was a day to remind Americans about the work of people like Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner and Harriet Tubman, Lyons said. He closed his message by issuing a report card of issues that were prevalent in the 1960s which still exist today.
“We elected and re-elected the nation’s first African American president,” he said. “Now although that would seem like an ‘A’ what it has really done has exposed a lot of the racial prejudices that have been lurking in the shadows. That, my friends, would be an ‘F.’”
Sister Margie Kelly of Holy Name of Mary Church kicked off the event with a short speech about the importance of the day. “Today we honor the heroic stance taken by Dr. Martin Luther King and to pray that we might stand firm for justice for every person, for mercy and forgiveness for those who harm us, for protection of all human life and above all, for love in the face of persecution and even death,” she said.
Mayor Ed Fare quoted King in his address and took King’s words as a challenge to make the world a better place. “It’s a day to reflect on Dr. King’s life and legacy,” he said, “but also, it’s a day to think about how each of us can make a positive impact in the world in which we live.”
The Rev. Philip Jones led several songs during the event in addition to a performance by the Valley Stream Dance Ministry. The Rev. Dionne Boissiere, of the New Hope Baptist Church in Danbury, Conn., also led a memorable song.
Malik Nadeem Abid, a Nassau County human rights commissioner and a member of American Muslim Voice, spoke about how King’s words have impacted him as a Muslim living in America. “Whenever you see an injustice, please stand up,” he said, “not just to protect yourself, but to protect the rights of your friends, family members and everyone else, because in the end we will remember the silence of all our friends.”
The Rev. Kymberley Clemons-Jones, president of the Valley Stream Religious Council, has hosted the celebration at her church for the past four years and said the event left her feeling inspired to do good in the world.