From community service projects to the pulpit, New Yorkers spent the day honoring Martin Luther King Jr. through service, reflection and calls to continue his work of social justice in today’s divided political atmosphere.
In the face of single-digit temperatures, volunteers and activists said it didn’t feel right to stay at home on the holiday that honors the slain civil rights leader. Annie Mohan, 43, was one of the 700 volunteers who worked during the three-day weekend at the Food Bank for New York City.
The Far Rockaway woman, who brought her daughter along to the nonprofit’s Harlem office, said preparing meals for the needy and furloughed federal workers was just one way she could make a difference.
"Martin Luther King preached for humanity and service, and helping your neighbor, and this I think just embodies all of that," she said.
Rita Sinkfield Belin, of Harlem, who also volunteered at the Food Bank’s office, said the service community projects were inspirational.
"It means that people care," she said. "That we all can come together as humans helping each other and show love and care and concern for our brothers and sisters regardless of nationality, ethnicity, culture."
The city’s elected officials echoed this statement at various rallies and events. Many of them, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Charles Schumer, and presidential contender Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, dropped by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at his headquarters in Harlem. They echoed acknowledgments that the country still has a lot to do to fulfill Dr. King’s dream of equal rights for all Americans.
De Blasio, in particular, said more needed to be done to ensure that minority individuals are given the same benefits and economic opportunities as white Americans, including access to health care and affordable housing.
"If we do not have opportunity, if we don’t have a chance to live a decent life . . . what kind of rights do we have?" the mayor asked the crowd.