Boro performers celebrate life of Dr. King

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The 10th annual celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. at the Black Spectrum Theater in St. Albans last Thursday honored the legacy of the slain civil rights leader and the diversity of Queens.

Performers from throughout the borough braved the snow to come to the theater in Roy Wilkins Park and participate in "A Tapestry of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," sponsored by borough President Claire Shulman.

About 100 residents joined Shulman and several other elected officials and community leaders to view the array of singers, dancers, musicians and speakers who took part in the tribute to King.

"We are very happy to be invited here. Dr. King's dream was our dream, too," said Byung-Kook Kwak, choir director for the Central Presbyterian Church of New York.

The choir members, all dressed in white suit jackets, sang several hymns in Korean.

"Dr. King spoke out for the rights of all people," said Rabbi Mayer Perelmutter of the Reform Temple of Forest Hills.

King often compared the civil rights struggle to the Book of Exodus, or the freedom of the ancient Hebrews from slavery, Perelmutter said.

Perelmutter alluded to a Midrash, a rabbinic interpretation of the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), where the Red Sea parted for the fleeing Hebrews only after one man climbed into the water all the way up to his nostrils.

"It took action as well as faith in God to make a miracle happen," Perelmutter said, describing the essence of what King stood for.

Shulman said she had not realized that King was only 39 years old when his life was cut short by an assassin's bullet in 1968.

"How much did he accomplish in those 39 years," Shulman said as more of a statement than a question. "He led a crusade for freedom and justice, a crusade for peace among all people."

The keynote speech was given by U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks (D-St. Albans), who said many of the words in King's speeches are still relevant today.

"We have a growing gap between the rich and the poor today," Meeks said, referring to King's concern with economic as well as racial division in America.

"He was able to accomplish what he did because of his confidence in the black community," said Meeks. "Dr. King was the eternal optimist, he was the ultimate optimist."

Also featured were performers from Golliard Concerts, an Astoria-based classical singing group; the Queens Symphony Orchestra Youth Choir, and the Laurelton-based Kekda children's dance company.

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