Brooklynites reveled in a bragfest that celebrated the 28th annual and largest gathering marking the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by lauding historical firsts which out-distances four boroughs that comprise the city’s demographics. Inside the Brooklyn Academy of Music – located a stone’s throw from the news-magnet Barclays Center – Brooklyn’s finest proved the best attraction and most significant venue to “Come share The Dream” and 85th birthday anniversary of Dr. MLK.
With Mayor Bill Deblasio and wife Chirlayne McCray leading a cheer-leading team featuring Sen. Charles Schumer, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, US Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and keynote speaker Angela Davis, Eric Adams, the first African-American Brooklyn borough president kicked off a morning of praise to Dr. King combining tributes to South African President Nelson Mandela and a borough that boasts milestone achievements in politics and culture.
“Earth is not the center of the universe ... Brooklyn is,” Adams said in dispute of Ptolemy’s theory.
On a day annually devoted to celebration of America’s best-known King, the history-making borough president thanked his constituency and his predecessor Marty Markowitz before launching into a series of introductions to emcee the celebration.
“I will never be able to fill Marty’s shoes but I bring my own pair.”
The SRO crowd cheered the bold commentary which defines the past and current leaders.
“I am the first senator from Brooklyn in 100 years,” Sen. Schumer followed. “
Cheers swelled from the rafters of the two-tiered Brooklyn landmark as the senator continued to shower platitudes on the “city within a city.”
According to Sen. Schumer, the King birthday tributes are a staple calendar item he has attended annually, except for last year when he helped to co-ordinate the second presidential inauguration of President Barack Obama.
“We have two presidents who broke barriers,” he said of the first African-American US leader and the borough’s BP.
“I am never going to move out of Brooklyn,” Sen. Schumer declared.
Applause intensified and braggadocio peaked with Adams’ introduction of “the first-lady who happens to be married to Mayor DeBlasio.”
“Hello Brooklyn!” McCray shouted as she faced what seemed to be among her most-adoring supporters – Brooklynites.
After quickly detailing her goal of a One Brooklyn united New York City, she yielded to her six-foot, five-inch husband.
“BAM epitomizes Brooklyn,” he said. “I spoke here last when one Dante graduated from MS 51,” the mayor said of his son’s rite of passage.
During a brief but concise message he referenced Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail which explained why African-Americans cannot wait. DeBlasio’s parallel was that he will not wait on acting to reform the Stop, Question & Frisk police practice. He also said he plans to champion a campaign for paid sick days for workers; community health care, basic stability and free pre-kindergarten care.
Sen. Gillibrand and NYPD’s Bratton also reflected on Dr. King’s prison letter saying that justice should not be deferred.
Bratton recounted the time he addressed a similar crowd on the same occasion two decades ago. He spoke about public safety borrowing a quote from Dr. King that “injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”
“Dr. King’s sacrifice was for a little Black boy in New York City,” DA Thompson said.
“I owe a tremendous debt – I intend to pay that debt with equal justice for all.”
The loudest applause registered when keynote speaker Angela Davis was introduced. Prolonged cheers, enthusiasm and greetings followed her name and she was forced to quell the prolonged greeting saying time was short.
“I used to live in Bed-Stuy,” Davis said.
The cheers amplified but quelled when she continued to talk about her pride in returning to the borough. “Especially since the election of the new mayor,” she added.
She hailed Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.
And in broadening her plaudits, showered praises on Detroit Congressman John Conyers, singer/composer Stevie Wonder, Haiti’s Toussaint L’Ourverture, singer Nina Simone, writer Toni Morrison and poet laureate Amiri Baraka. Through an intellectual message she embraced US history to inform many unknowing that Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nelson Mandela remained on a US terrorist list until 2008.
Brooklyn’s finest included Deputy BP Diana Reyna, the first Dominican to serve in the position; Rudy Crew, president of Medgar Evers College, Karen Brooks Hopkins; BAM president, Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman, Rev. Valerie Oliver Durrah as well as the Jose James Trio and the Christian Cultural Center Choir.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the first Latina to serve in that position also addressed the Brooklyn gathering.