Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. in 2019

A panorama view of the kick off of Peace Week on the steps of City Hall. (Photo by Sonia Colon via Kings County Politics)

Over the past week, community media outlets have been writing about ceremonies, marches, interfaith events and other celebrations to be held in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. This year, the civil rights icon would have turned 90 years old on Jan. 15.

The Brooklyn Academy of Music, which has been honoring Dr. King for more than three decades, will host its event on Jan. 21. Activist and #MeToo founder Tarana Burke will serve as the keynote speaker, with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams as the master of ceremonies. BK Reader’s Andrea Leonhardt writes about the planned event:

In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s unifying legacy, the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir will take the stage at BAM to celebrate the diverse cultures that make our borough great. The ensemble, which was founded by conductor and choral director Frank A. Haye, is committed to bringing people together through artistic expression. Haye refers to each of the choir’s members as “performing ambassadors that spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ through song.”

On Jan. 15, public officials from Brooklyn and Queens announced the start of Peace Week, an initiative spearheaded by LIFE Camp, an anti-violence organization based in South Jamaica, Queens. Peace Week co-founder Erica Ford joined community leaders in speaking on the steps of City Hall. She is among those quoted by Kings County Politics’ Sonia Colón.

“We want to continue to make peace a lifestyle. To bring the numbers down [to] record lows, as we did when there was an entire weekend in 2018 when not one gun went off,” said Ford. “When there was six days in New York City last year when no murders took place. To save a life is to change the dynamic of communities.”

The story also covered the mayor’s Crisis Management System, which was among the efforts described at the event to “reduce the long-term risk of violence,” and what is in store for the 9th annual Peace Week, at Kings County Politics. Amsterdam News highlights one of the Peace Week events, the “Walk of Peace” which starts at noon on Monday in Coney Island and is hosted by the Coney Island Anti-Violence Collaborative. See other marches, showcases and celebrations in its roundup.

In a column that appeared in the publication entitled “How will you celebrate MLK Day?” Fordham professor Christina Greer reflects on the relevance today of Dr. King’s words in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” dated April 16, 1963: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Greer writes:

Our destinies as Americans and humans sharing this Earth are intricately connected and we must not ever forget that. Injustices toward undocumented immigrants at our border should agitate and motivate us as much as innocent children being senselessly killed by law enforcement or prescription drugs. Similarly, we should care about the current brutality inflicted on Syrians, Congolese and Ukrainians across the ocean—to name just three populations currently dealing with atrocities beyond their control.

Bklyner has a list of events in Brooklyn to honor Dr. King, from an interfaith prayer service to the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture’s “Families Celebrate Africa” event for Dr. King that will feature music, performances, crafts and more. Check out what will happen in Queens at QNS. Celebrations include a Dance Theatre of Harlem performance at Queens College for its fifth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration on Jan. 20. Meanwhile, the NYC Parks Stewardship is organizing volunteers to help clean up parks in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn as part of the MLK Day of Service on Jan. 21. In the Bronx, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will host an interfaith service on Monday at Trinity Baptist Church at 10 a.m.

This week, Gay City News ran a few stories related to Dr. King: Audio recently released of the late gay civil rights figure Bayard Rustin reveals what pushed him to become “more open about his sexuality than was at all customary for public figures of his era,” writes reporter Matt Tracy.

An activist who believed in nonviolent resistance, Rustin spearheaded the organizing effort of the 1963 March on Washington and helped play a major role in the civil rights movement alongside King. But his sexual orientation wound up becoming a serious roadblock in his work. “At a given point, there was so much pressure on Dr. King about my being gay — and particularly because I would not deny it — that he set up a committee to explore whether it would be dangerous for me to continue working with him,” Rustin recalled in the newly available audio, which will be aired on the Making Gay History podcast (here).

On Tuesday, the State Senate and Assembly passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and other measures in support of the LGBTQ community. Reporter Paul Schindler noted: “Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the African-American majority leader from Yonkers, said passing GENDA on January 15 was ‘a great tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on his birthday.’” Brooklyn Reporter’s John Alexander reports that Fort Hamilton Army Base in Bay Ridge marked the anniversary of Dr. King’s birth at a Jan. 17 ceremony. Capt. Naadira Brown served as the keynote speaker for the annual event.

“I actually had to do a double take listening to one of the speeches from Dec. 24, 1967 entitled ‘Peace on Earth.’ I literally looked and thought that speech could have been given on Dec. 24, 2018.” She further explained that when King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech he was introduced as the moral leader of our nation. “I said, wow, what a weight to bear on someone’s shoulders,” Brown noted. “And I thought, who is the moral leader of our homes, of our churches, of our schools, of our military and do we have any. . . What will the speech be like in another 100 years? Who will give it? Who will be our nation’s moral leader?”

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