King’s legacy honored in southeast Qns.

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Photo gallery

The VIP step team performs. Photo by Christina Santucci
Councilman James Sanders (r.) takes a moment to chat with Casin Funn, 8, during the event. Photo by Christina Santucci
Rahni Davis, 14, reads a poem she wrote for her church about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Photo by Christina Santucci
Sisters Rickyna Martin (l.) and Rickyel Martin sign in at the event. Photo by Christina Santucci
Willistean Smith listens at the event. Photo by Christina Santucci
The VIP step team performs. Photo by Christina Santucci

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s non-violent quest for racial equality has left an indelible mark on the nation and Queens residents kept his memory alive Monday by honoring the Nobel Peace Prize winner at a community-focused event.

City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) met with civic leaders and residents at St. Luke Cathedral in Laurelton in an effort to deal with the rise of senseless violence in that area against the backdrop of King’s commitment to non-violence.

“Our immediate community is beset with the question of rapes, youth dying in the streets, predatory lending — where people are taking the homes of elders and others — of crime of every type,” said Sanders, whose constituents live in Laurelton, Springfield Gardens, Edgemere, Bayswater, Averne, Rosedale and Far Rockaway.

“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that action in the face of injustice is what is needed,” he said. “So we’re teaching people how to take back their streets.”

Sanders, who hosted Monday’s gathering, MLK Day “Community or Chaos Conference” III, said the event was the brainchild of his chief of staff, Donovan Richards.

Workshops geared toward assisting residents who were starting or expanding nonprofits were offered at the church, at 133-21 232nd St.

“Councilman Sanders chose today to inform and enlighten us,” said Sandra Broughton, a volunteer from Far Rockaway’s Ocean Breeze community. “We’re meeting to learn how to further our goals and get information on how to be successful and do away with the chaos of misinformation. Today’s event is all about going forward and building our community.”

Outreach Coordinator Wilfredo Florentino represents Citizens Committee for New York City, a 40-year-old nonprofit that provides grants to volunteer-led community groups.

“Last year, we gave out over 260 grants totaling half a million dollars,” he said.

The group’s goal is to engage in community improvement efforts by offering skills-building workshops for free.

The organization, which gets some city funding but mostly private funds, was establishing during New York’s 1970s fiscal crisis.

“We’re currently living through another crisis, but our grant-giving capability has never been compromised,” he said.

Isaiah Marshall, a young volunteer from East Elmhurst whose aunt lives in Laurelton, applauded the event and the councilman’s initiative.

“This was a much-needed event and should take place more than once a year,” Marshall said. “This neighborhood has its fair share of trouble. It’s a work in progress. Sanders has helped tremendously, hosting events that keep people informed.”

Sanders echoed King’s message during the event.

“In the spirit of the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and of the noble civil rights movement, we decided to double our efforts, stop being accidental tourists of our own lives and prove that we’re not children of a lesser god,” he said. “We uphold that tradition that all humanity is one.

“We all have an obligation to struggle against those things that demean and take away from humanity: poverty, hunger, crime, racism. Whatever the problem is, we use this day to rededicate ourselves to a great fight for the beloved community — one that Gandhi spoke of, that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of — rooted in all the great religious traditions. All these religions speak of how we can do better.

He added: “So while thinking globally, we’re acting locally.”

Updated 11:44 am, January 20, 2012
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