The federal holiday Monday began with early morning food and thanks sponsored by the Westchester Community Opportunity Program, Inc., and the New Rochelle Community Action Program. Held at , the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 39th Annual Drum Major Award Memorial Breakfast recognized New Rochelleans who have had an impact on the community.
Over 200 attendees enjoyed music, speeches and dance. Brian Harris, vocals, and Rev. Jonathan Harris, piano, brought the house down; Dalys Bayne's danced in the name of God; Olivia Dale Watkins sang and Donise Brown recited her poem entitled Redeeming the Dream.
"Let us take the time to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the epitome of a true king … He gave you and I both our own dreams to believe," said Brown.
The morning's speeches reflected on Dr. King’s accomplishments and his mark on society.
Mayor Noam Bramson said that the assembled knew that Dr. King did not labor and sacrifice in vain.
"Surely he would be pleased with the changes that have occurred since his passing. But there are other times when I wonder if we have not simply substituted one set of inequalities and divisions for another," he said.
Southern Westchester youth who were featured in Sunday’s also spoke.
"High numbers of youth are being incarcerated, dropping out of high school and are predicted to have a lower life expectancy than their parents," said Angela Campbell, who brought the youthful Great Debaters to the celebration.
Following the theme, Roland Grant, board chairman of the Westchester Community Opportunity Program (WESTCOP) said that we all must "Remember to keep up the fight. We must pass it to the younger generation, so that they will understand what happened in the past."
Addressing the audience, Drum Major Award recipient Quay Wallace Watkins, Esq., said that each and every one of them has helped to make their community a place where Dr. King’s dream was not just words "but where his words come to life by your actions every day."
Other award recipients include Mark McLean (The Napoleon Holmes Award) and Michael Greaves and Rachelle Oliver (Dr. Betty V. Stith Scholarship Award).
Members of government were also present including County Clerk Tim Idoni, state Assemblyman George Latimer, state Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, Judge Susan Kettner, Councilmember Barry Fertel and Bramson.
Jared Rice, who was to present a proclamation on behalf of Rep. Nita Lowey, was in the hospital and was unable to attend. Luckily, he is OK. The mayor reports that Rice and his daughter had a stomach virus and were dehydrated.
Paulin said New Rochelle is a great city that is diverse.
"They hold this breakfast to bring everyone together, to remember the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a reminder to all of us how far we have come as a community, but it is also a reminder that we still have a long way to go," she said.
Bramson said he was delighted to attend such an important community celebration as a representative of City government.
"I think New Rochelle, more than most places, represents and embodies the spirit of common purpose, mutual respect, and that was at the heart of Dr. King's message," he said. "Having occasions like this where we can reflect on our own personal responsibilities to advance that mission is tremendously important."