Pleas to step-up support for equality and human rights were blended with timely requests to aid victims of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake at Mamaroneck’s 23rd annual program honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr at the Emelin Theater on January 13th .
Addressing a full house, Larchmont Trustee Anne McAndrews, co-chair of the event, said she was placing a basket for financial contributions just outside the room’s exit. By the end of the evening, the basket was full of bills.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins, featured speaker and New York State senator from the 35th district that includes Yonkers, picked up the double themes. ‘How fragile our lives are,” she noted. “They can change in a blink of an eye.” The measure of our human stature, she said, is “our capacity to share” and our “capacity to do.”
Doris “Mother” Jackson, who received this year’s award for an individual who lives the ideals of the late civil rights leader, suggested the real spirit of Dr. King is “Don’t let anyone go hungry.”
Three Mamaroneck High School seniors from Kids for World Health — Jake Feinman, Emily Wharton and Sarah Comerford — in accepting the King award for their organization stressed the importance of providing medical education and assistance for those abroad who can least afford it.
Progress But More to Do: Senator Stewart-Cousins
Talking without notes as she moved along the front of the stage, Senator Stewart-Cousins compared human rights today with where it stood when she was young. She said that in the 1960s it was impossible for an African-American to become a delegate to either the Republican or Democratic convention. “Today, we have a president who is an African-American. How quickly things can change when minds change.”
She allowed there still is “a lot to be filled in and that’s our job.” Giving our children a good education is key. “You can’t force people” about what to believe, she said. “They’ll just push back and the lesson isn’t learned. You have to preach and teach … and show them.”
She said her own parents weren’t completely comfortable with the efforts of Dr. King. They wondered whether “it could lead to trouble” and “maybe the best you can do is be quiet.” But that wasn’t her choice. She grasped the tools Dr. King championed of “persistence, understanding and action.” She said she knew these tools wouldn’t be hers “until I lived it.”
She is credited with authoring and helping to push through the Westchester County Human Rights Law when she was a County legislator.
A Lesson in Giving: Mother Jackson
When Mother Jackson’s took the stage, she recalled how as a young child she “lived in a shack in New Jersey with no running water, no heat, no electricity and no indoor toilet.” It was then she learned about giving. One day she saw an elderly woman who lived a few blocks away get into distress trying to cross a busy street in front of the Jackson’s residence. Out of concern, she got her mother to go out with her and help the woman cross safely.
Some time later, her parents announced the whole family would be moving to an apartment with heat, water, electric lights, bathroom, TV and a separate bedroom for her. They had a benefactor, it turned out. It was the elderly woman. She had the connections and clout to make the move possible.
“Sometimes something you give is small for you, but can be big for the other person,” Mother Jackson said.
She urged youth in the audience to “continue your education. With education, doors will open. And help the poor. Help the elderly.”
A Full Program
Other highlights of the program were:
o A special recognition for recently retired executive director of the Community Action Program (CAP) Center Beverly Brewer-Villa for her more than 30 years of service to the community, presented by Keith Yizar
o Spirited singing to a drum beat of the African song Sizambe Nae by a children’s choir from Sts. John and Paul Parish under the direction of Rasaan Bourke
o A rendition of the folk song Hope by the Mamaroneck High School String and Woodwind Quintet
o An explanation of “What this Evening is About” by Cora Rust in which she said, “it is a tribute to Dr. King…..to raise our conscience to eliminate racism, poverty and war”
o An introduction of Mother Jackson by Rev. Richard Allen of the Mamaroneck United Methodist Church in which he quoted Dr. Robert Schuller, “Find a need and fill it. Find a hurt and heal it.”
o Singing and dance by students of Rye Neck High School, assisted by faculty advisors Dorothy Saraceno and Mark DiMaggio.
o A series of short praises, poetry and a song by Mother Jackon’s nephew and granddaughters
o Presentation to the Martin Luther King award recipients of proclamations from all the local political leaders, including a special urging to the audience by Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld to give generously to Haiti relief and a statement by State Assemblyman George Latimer, “Dr. King is not dead: he is alive through all of us here tonight.”
The evening’s program was hosted by the Mamaroneck-Larchmont Human Rights Committee under Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe with coordination from Ms. McAndrews.
Editor’s Note: Mr. Wolfson is a past recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. award.