As President Barack Obama was ceremonially sworn in to his second term in the Oval Office on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, families from southeast Queens took some time to recognize the impact the nation’s black leaders — both past and present — have had on their lives.
“My father marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. From his perspective at the time in 1963 he felt racism, Jim Crow .... I think he marched to do his part for his family members,” South Ozone Park mother Cassandra Patterson said Monday.
Walter Patterson Sr. died two years ago, but he lived long enough to see the country’s first black president take the oath of office. Cassandra said that just as her father looked up to King, her two young girls, ages 2 and 4, can look up to Obama.
“He fought for us. I’m a locomotive engineer with the railroad and he fought for women’s rights,” she said.
As parents watched the inauguration upstairs at the St. Albans Presbyterian Church, at 190-04 119th Ave., youngsters downstairs participated in literacy events for the Queens Community Parent Teacher Student Association’s third annual Dream to Read event honoring the legacy of King.
Karen Ferguson, the group’s recording secretary, said attendance was lower this year as many of the regulars had headed down to Washington for the ceremony, but for those left behind — especially the children — the day held special significance.
“The day is about promoting dads to get involved, but for the kids to see President Obama on such a prestigious day ... it’s really special,” she said.
Youngster Maureen Doherty said she had spent the night before reading about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad and she had also learned about King from a history book.
“He had a father and he was black. And he was assassinated,” she said. “He also made a big speech about I have a dream, and he had a dream that all black people and white people could be equal.”
Elliot Howard and his daughter came from Rosedale to spend the day at the church, and he said he was impressed with the president’s message.
“I thought it was pretty good. I’m looking forward to the next few years,” he said. “Knowing where we came from and where we need to go, basically it all has to be done together. We need to do it collectively.”
Howard said he took the opportunity to share that message with his daughter.
“I told her that I’m proud to be an African American. I told her about the forefathers and how they fought for the freedoms we have now,” he said. “It’s very important she knows exactly where we came from.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@
©2013 Community News Group
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