“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Aug. 28, 1968, Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
April 4, 1968 is the red-letter date that signifies the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, a civil rights advocate who preached and practiced tolerance during an era that he was tested by racist whites in America that lambasted, spat, beat and kicked the peace-advocate.
Since his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee at age 39, and more often after Congress declared a national holiday in January to honor his legacy, citizens have committed to service and volunteerism that epitomizes the legacy Dr. King exemplified.
For many years, Brooklyn’s House of the Lord pastor Rev. Herbert Daughtry led thousands of congregants and supporters across the Brooklyn Bridge in protests against police brutality and other issues perceived to be injustice perpetrated against the Black community.
Similarly Rev. Al Sharpton rallied on that day with supporters to dramatize numerous issues. As a matter of fact, on one of the coldest MLK holidays, the community activist spent the night at City Hall Park. The issue that year was homelessness and although temperatures plunged into the one-digit figures, the founder of National Action Network bedded down in order to highlight the plight of many New Yorkers.
President Barrack Obama carried on the tradition when he elicited millions to dedicate a day of service during his inauguration proceedings. On that first inaugural his focus was to acknowledge veterans and their families. Along with his wife Michelle, they packed toiletries and other items at the RFK Stadium in Washington, DC.
Together they engaged volunteerism that motivated millions to honor the day with service.
This year, several issues are being featured for focus, among them: mass incarceration, police brutality, crime in Chicago, Stand Your Ground repeal in Florida, gun control, Eric Garner’s “I can’t Breathe” plea to NYPD officers who allegedly used a choke-hold to restrain him, the Black Lives Matter movement and a myriad of community concerns.
“We must go from demonstration to legislation,” Sharpton said.
Jan. 18, after his annual public policy forum in Harlem – frequently attended by federal, state and city officials — at 106 West 145th St., Sharpton plans to lead a march from his House of Justice headquarters to 125th St. where the likeness of former Congressman Adam Clayton Powell stands tall in front as a monument to the first Black Harlem Congressional legislator at the state office building named in his honor.
At the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. (125th St.) and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. the focus will be on a $15 minimum wage for all New Yorkers.
While issues usually dominate the day’s calendar, there are also numerous commemorations that honor the day’s proceedings.
“Whistle In Mississippi” a film about the horrific lynching of a 14-year-old boy named Emmett Till who was beaten, killed and placed in cement because he allegedly whistled at a white woman will be screened throughout the weekend preceding the national holiday.
On the actual Jan. 15 birthdate of Dr. King at 7:30 pm the first showing will begin. From then until Jan. 18, the telling historic document by director Michael Green will be held at the Joseph P. Kennedy Community Center, 34 West 134th St. The egregious southern Civil Rights murder of a boy from Chicago who visited the southern state and was brutally murdered will be screened multiple times on Jan. 16 at 3 pm and 8 pm. For more information, call 646488-9576.
“Race & Privilege: Exploring MLK’s Two Americas” is the topic of a free, public, presentation at the Apollo Theater on Jan. 17. Beginning at 3 pm a distinguished panel hosted by Brian Lehrer and Jami Floyd, hosts of WNYC programs will provide a varied perspective on the topic.
A video message from Eric Holder is also part of the presentation along with special performances by Daniel Bernard Roumain with special guests Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Emeline Michel.
Questions to the panel can be submitted in advance by using the #ApolloUptownHall or #wnycmlk or @ApolloTheater and @WNYC Twitter and Instagram tags.
“Civil Rights Then & Now: Black Power at 50” promises a two-hour presentation at the New York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West (at 77th St.) from 2 pm to 4 pm. Aimed at educating youths — ages from nine-years-old — about the difficult struggle through the Civil Rights era to achieve racial equality, a panel discussion will feature Dennis D. Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Jamal Joseph, a former member of the Black Panther Party and co-founder of IMPACT Repertory Theater and Dr. Donna Murch, associate professor of history Rutgers University. For more information, call (212)873-3400.
Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway will host “Art & Civil Rights” a gallery tour on Jan. 16 & 17 at 1 pm in honor of the slain leader. A screening of the film “Selma” will be held on Teen Movie Night from 4:30 pm on Jan. 22. For more information, call 718-638-5000.
MLK Day at the Grace reformed Church of Flatbush begins at 11 am and continues throughout with storytelling and poetry at 1800 Bedford Ave. Slated to be held in partnership with the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association, in conjunction with Fort Greene’s Greenlight Bookstore, a family-friendly day of music, dance, literature and craft making will provide a program and lunch to guest on Jan. 18. For more information, call (718)246-0200.
Perhaps, the largest and most consistent of all is the Jan. 18, Brooklyn tribute to the man who dared to dream. of a better America.
For the 30th year, beginning at 10:30 am a myriad of multi-media presentations will include art exhibition, film, concert and testimonies from prominent cultural and political leaders at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, 30 Lafayette Ave. The annual attracts artists, activists and civic leaders that come together at for the city’s largest event commemorating Dr. King. In addition to performances by Kimberly Nichole and the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir, there will be a screening of “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” and a book signing by Michael Eric Dyson who will give the keynote address. For more information, log on to www.bam.org.
Several NYC institutions will also pay homage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his message of racial equality will be echoed by special events on the weekend of Jan. 15–18. Places such as Studio Museum in Harlem, Weeksville Heritage Center and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture have also slated programs to honor Dr. MLK.
On the eve of his assassination, Dr. King delivered a prophetic speech at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. This is an excerpt from the “Mountaintop” speech.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, April 3, 1968. —
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
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