New York’s senior elected officials met with Reverend Al Sharpton in Harlem Monday to discuss the Dr. Celebrating Martin Luther King (MLK) Day and the enduring legacy of the legendary civil rights leader.
When the National Action Network (NAN) began its MLK Day celebrations around 2 p.m. on January 16, the organization’s leader, Reverend Al Sharpton, was still on a plane and, after sharing breakfast with President Joe Biden, flew out of Washington DC return. As Sharpton made his way to Harlem, notable speakers not only saluted Doctor King, but also acknowledged the importance his message still holds in 2023.
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries had spoken many times before at NAN headquarters at 106 West 145th St., but his rousing speech Monday afternoon was his first as House Minority Leader. While Jeffries hailed King for the changes he was able to effect in the American civil rights movement, Jeffries also targeted those he says are making efforts to reverse those advances.
“What will we do to meet the challenges of the moment, from the life, legacy, leadership, lessons of Dr. King to learn and we have some challenges. People who don’t like the progress made. People who want to turn back the clock. Haters run across the country – malice in high places. People who want to accept the theoretical ministry of Martin Luther King Jr. but not his good work. Celebrate him, but don’t glorify the work he’s done,” Jeffries exclaimed.
Jeffries added that some politicians believe Dr. King, but failed to heed the reverend’s teachings by pushing to eliminate benefits such as affordable housing, Medicare, reproductive freedom, and voting rights.
“Some people who go to church and pray on Sundays, but then they come to Washington DC and they’re chasing – chasing – chasing the American people. They come to Washington, DC and hunt down the American people, hunt down the poor, hunt down the sick, hunt down the downtrodden, hunt down the lowly, the lost and the left behind,” Jeffries added.
Reverend Sharpton arrived just after 3:00 p.m. Monday, in time to introduce Governor Kathy Hochul. In a proclamation to the Reverend Sharpton, the Governor wrote of her work in office to the late Dr. King and explained that because of his teachings, she yearned to fight for the rights of the people.
“I’m old enough to remember him when he was alive. I read a book called ‘Childhood of Famous Americans,'” Gov. Hochul said. “I found out about his murder – I will never forget it. Our family, we all grew up in a social justice catholic family, holding hands and praying and crying. Because what would become of our country without that conscience of America calling us to be better than we were at that time in our history? But I never lost that. That drew me into public service.”
Mayor Eric Adams also paid tribute to King. However, he also wanted to acknowledge the fruits of King’s labor. Adams celebrated the black and brown men and women who are now in office thanks to the struggles King fought, including Adams himself. He applauded the chairmen of key committees, the chairmen of the Senate, the New York City Council, the majority of county presidents and other city and state roles earned by people of color.
“The actual celebration of Dr. So King is saying he marched for it, that’s what our ancestors fought for,” Adams said. “So we’re not just going to think about the dream. We will live the dream and move our city and country in a direction that a dream should take us.”