Rockville Centre community spreads the message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Community members of all ages gathered at the village’s Martin Luther King Jr. Center on Monday evening to honor the late civil rights activist who fought relentlessly for equality.

“Wherever people fight to be free, his name is remembered with dignity,” said Kianah Calhoun, who opened the program with a poem. “When black people weren’t treated right, he stood strong to lead the fight.”

Dozens packed the facility on North Centre Avenue as performers dazzled attendees while honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Children in the center’s after-school program recited poems about their ambitions, an ode to King’s “I Have A Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963. The speech was later read by Rockville Centre middle- and high-school students.

Chauncey Mitchell, who emceed the event, recalled being a young child when King visited Rockville Centre in 1968; Amanda, Antoine and Arianna McLean sang “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around”; and Charnae Jenkins, Kamani Carper and Calhoun performed a dance.

Members of the center’s New Visions drama program, led by Tijuana Evans, closed the event with a performance. Evans teaches dance every day at the center’s after-school program, where she said children are able to pursue their passions. “We’re in there for an hour, play around and make magic happen,” she said with a smile.

The after-school program serves about 20 children and teenagers, from kindergarten through high school, according to Pat Morris, director of the center. “It’s definitely awesome that the kids are performing and able to do things to show the parents what they do here at the MLK Center, whether it’s reciting a poem, learning about Dr. King or just being here instead of somewhere else they can be getting themselves in trouble,” Morris said after the event. “Our kids are not shy. They love to perform and entertain.”