Posted at: 01/20/2014 12:15 PM
Updated at: 01/20/2014 5:56 PM
By: WNYT Staff
ALBANY - People filled the Empire State Plaza Convention Center for the annual observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
NewsChannel 13's Benita Zahn was one of the MC's for the event, which was telecast statewide.
Young people play a major role in the annual Empire State Plaza observance.
That's fitting, since year after year, the number of Americans who remember the actual Dr. King, who saw the news stories or maybe even the famous events like the 1963 March on Washington, that number dwindles.
Not only do the school students not remember Dr. King when he was alive, now many of their parents are too young.
However, because of the heroic struggle led by Doctor King and others, kids like fourth grader Elgin Joseph Taylor now can have their own dreams. Taylor told Benita that when he grows up, he wants to be president.
Much of the program is taken by talented performers presenting pieces tied to the civil rights struggle. There are also speeches. Not as good as Doctor King's we'd have to state with little fear of contradiction, but sincere and important none the less.
“My New York were the after school programs like Mind Builders, the Fresh Air Fund, Double Discovery, Upward Bound. Programs that stimulated my mind and made me think of achieving more than I ever thought possible,” Rev. Nicholas Stuart Richards, the keynote speaker, told the crowd.
Led by a mounted patrol officer and State Police color guard, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, County Executive McCoy, Congressman Paul Tonko and others made their way from the Empire State Plaza to the statue of Dr. King in Lincoln Park.
“Our city is struggling. One in four of us lives in poverty. 70 percent of the children in our public schools qualifies for free or reduced price lunches and for far too long, the rich diversity in our community has not been reflected in our government,” said Mayor Sheehan.
It was a theme echoed by Congressman Tonko.
“Social and economic justices, fairness where every one can prosper and dream the American dream and its an unsustainable outcome if we don't share the resources appropriately. We need to invest in education and research and infrastructure,” said the congressman.
A wreath was placed. The closing prayer was delivered by the Reverend Willie James Stovall. “I think he would call for the youth to come together and stop the shooting and violence because he was a non-violent man and our city here, we really need somebody to step out and our young people, nowadays, they don't value life,” said Rev. Stovall.
Also remembered during the Albany ceremonies was Nelson Mandela, who died last month after practicing many of the principles of non-violence that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. adhered to.