On the chilly morning of Jan. 16, Glen Covers, and those from around the area, gathered in front of First Baptist Church of Glen Cove to begin a morning of honoring the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year would be the first time an in-person observation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day would be held since 2020, as virtual programs were held the past two years.
Banners representing St. John’s of Lattingtown, AHRC Nassau (an organization that provides support for people with developmental disabilities), Kiwanis Club of Glen Cove, NOSH Delivers and North Shore Soup (local food resources) were held by marchers. The marchers were escorted by the Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department, the Glen Cove Police Department, Glen Cove EMS and the Glen Cove Auxiliary Police from First Baptist Church of Glen Cove to Finley Middle School, clearing the roads between of cars so that marchers could fill the streets, and onlookers could watch and support them.
On the way, Sheryl Goodine, the chairwoman of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, led the marchers through songs like “Kumbaya my Lord.”
Once the marchers reached Finley Middle School, NOSH and AHRC Nassau collected non-perishable food items to benefit the community as part of Glen Cove’s First Annual MLK Day of Service. According to the U.S. Department of Interior, the MLK Day of Service is a day on, not day off, where Americans are encouraged to participate in service activities to benefit their community.
Inside the middle school, refreshments were provided by AHRC Nassau, Glen Cove Hospital, Glen Cove Bagel Cafe and Starbucks. Artists from AHRC Nassau were selling artwork from artists at the AHRC East Meadow Art Gallery, and proceeds would go towards the original artists.
Then it was time for the ceremony that would take place inside the auditorium.
Goodine introduced the ceremony by leading the audience through a chant of “Harambe,” which in Swahili means working together for the common good.
“Only two localities on Long Island have offered consecutive annual commemorative programs in honor of Dr. King,” said Glen Cove High School Principal Allen Hudson III, the master of the ceremony. “I am proud to say Glen Cove is one of them. We even offered programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This level of dedication to remembering Dr. King and his mission speaks to the community’s values, Hudson said in part.
Rev. Roger C. Williams, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Glen Cove, opened the ceremony with an invocation, and a Color Guard followed by the Glen Cove Police department and the Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department as eight-year-old Jeremiah Dominique led the Pledge of Allegiance and the Glen Cove High School Select Chorale sang the National Anthem, and then “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Goodine thanked the local first responders for their assistance with the day’s events. “It’s an honor to have them with us, not resisting us,” she said.
Speeches were then given by both Glen Cove Mayor Pamela Panzenbeck and Glen Cove City School District Superintendent Dr. Maria Rianna. And then Gaitley Stevenson-Mathews, a very active community member, recited a poem written by Victoria Crosby, the Poet Laureate of Glen Cove who moved recently. She writes a poem every year for the Dr. King Day of events.
Matt Hofele, an advocate with AHRC Nassau, then led a powerful speech on his reflections of Dr. King.
“My dream is for everyone to be aware that we all have the same rights and deserve to be treated equal with equal opportunities because nobody is better than anyone else,” Hofele said. “Today, I ask that everyone think of ways we can honor Dr. King with commitment to the community and service and volunteering. No one should have to worry about not having enough food for their next meal. If you have the food, and are able to, please consider donating it to your nearest community food pantry or volunteering. Let’s do our best to serve the people who need it the most all year round. As Dr. King said, ‘the time is always right to do what’s right.”
Hofele finished his speech by stating that while Dr. King’s sayings are well known, it’s important to not just say them, but make it a reality. The young Jeremiah echoed Hofele’s plea to serve the community.
“Dr. King often spoke about a beloved community which was a community where everyone was cared for, where there was no poverty, no hunger and no hate,” he said. “One way we can make Glen Cove a beloved community is by coming together to serve.”
The Glen Cove High School Drumline then performed for the audience; followed by a speech by Harriet Downer, a member of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission; another performance by the Glen Cove High School Select Chorale, performing “Say Her Name,” by Alysia Lee; a speech from student Cameron Staley reflecting on his service in the school community; a speech from Glen Cove City School District Board of Education member Lynn James on the importance of educating the youth; a performance from the First Baptist Church Adult Choir; and speeches from Brenda Lopez of Iglesia Ciudad Refugio, Inc. and Stevenson-Mathews on community outreach.
“My father [the late Rev. Jose Luis Lopez] had the privilege of dealing with the members of First Baptist Church, I was only two at the time. We were very blessed by them because they gave us an opportunity,” Lopez said. “It was a time you didn’t see that much, the Hispanic Community and the African American community coming together to worship and praise God. My father was one of the first Hispanic preachers to speak at Calvary A.M.E. Imagine a Puerto Rican man who hardly knew any English preaching to a Calvary A.M.E. Church. Of course he had to have a translator, but that was different times and we were seeing that change was starting to come. And I’m so thankful and honored to have this opportunity to share with you today.”
Lopez then spoke about how the community has reached out to her at a time of need, and how it has stuck with her and inspired her to in turn help others.
The ESOTA Dance Company then put on a performance that spanned the aisle and the stage, and dancers and drummers. It was a very exciting performance of African dances that inspired continuous applause from the audience.
And finally, the Curate Mother Catherine J. Lane Wieczorek of St. John’s of Lattingtown Episcopal Church led the benediction, followed by the audience singing “We Shall Overcome.”
Mayor Panzenbeck, after the ceremony, said it was an inspirational day and that one day “we will all be one.”
Dr. Rianna said it was a wonderful event.
“I hope that it makes an impact that will continue past today,” Dr. Rianna said. “I know it has in the past, and each year, I think it’s that much better. God knows we need it. [The students] volunteer their time and it’s just wonderful to see them actively involved. They are our future. If they want this to move on, they have to be a part of it.”
And Goodine said she believes Dr. King would be proud to have seen the day’s series of events, as well as her father, an original organizer of programs honoring Dr. King in Glen Cove.
“I am very thankful that the program turned out to be successful and that we had many people in the audience,” Goodine said. “Today we had so many organizations. It was a blessing. So many marching with us. Next year we hope to make the program bigger and better to include more and more people because it’s important to spread Dr. King’s message to the future generations, like little Jeremiah.”