Under a cloudless sky, members of the Zion Cathedral Church of God in Christ and the Cedarmore Corporation marched into Northeast Park in Freeport on June 28. Snare drums resonated through the park as women and children waved orange and purple flags. Community leaders, families and visitors to Freeport stood silently as a purple banner that read, “We shall never forget Bishop Otha White,” was carried to the front of the crowd.
Five months have passed since White died at 77 years old, but the Freeport community continues to mourn the man who many saw as a beacon of hope and friendship. So, when Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy reached out to Zion and Cedarmore leaders recently to propose renaming Northeast Park to Bishop Frank O. White Memorial Park, people rejoiced.
“I think this is the greatest thing that could be done for him, White,” said Marisela Wilson, who lives off Weberfield Avenue. “He was such a dynamic man, not just in Freeport, but I would say everywhere he went. He made a gigantic difference in the way our lives changed here.”
Renaming Northeast Park was a fitting tribute to the reverend, attendees at the ceremony said, noting that White and congregation members worked to clean up the park from the local gangs and drug dealers who once overran it. The Cedarmore Corporation is a nonprofit organization that White founded in the mid-1990s. Through it, White was able to help open the park, as well as provide educational, social and emotional developmental programs for Freeport and greater Long Island youth.
“This was always his park,” Roberta Coward, the Cedarmore board chairwoman, said, wiping away tears. “He made this park possible. This was a dead zone.”
Once the snare drums were silenced, the renaming ceremony began, with hundreds of cheering attendees in the crowd. Among them were Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Hempstead Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, County Comptroller George Maragos, and representatives of State Sen. John Brooks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice. During the ceremony, each of the leaders presented White’s wife, Juliet, son Bishop Frank Anthone White, and their family with posthumous recognitions.
“Although the board of trustees and myself continue to offer prayers and condolences to the White family and friends,” Kennedy said, “we congratulate them for unselfishly sharing Bishop White with this community and Zion Cathedral Church for over 40 years.”
Attendees cheered and applauded as Juliet joined Kennedy, Deputy Mayor Jorge Martinez and Trustee Debra Mule to unveil the new park signs bearing Bishop White’s name.
“He introduced me to Christ,” Freeporter Karen Mills said. “I’m just happy because he turned this park around as well as the community. Outside of the community, all loved him. He was really love personified.”