Glen Cove city officials, the local community and faith leaders from across the North Shore gathered on Monday to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as they have done for the past 39 years.
Beginning with a symbolic march from First Baptist Church of Glen Cove to Finley Middle School, the event served as an opportunity for the community to reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change spearheaded by King. Glen Cove is one of two localities on Long Island that offer consecutive and annual community programs in honor of King.
King is remembered for his tireless civil rights work, which included leading marches throughout the segregated South in the 1950s and 1960s. He worked to end racial segregation on public transportation and in public schools and workplaces, and called for racial equality on the national level. He became the most influential leader of the civil rights movement, giving passionate speeches, risking arrest, and ultimately giving his life for a cause that continues to this day.
This year marks the city’s first in-person gathering for the event since March 2020.
Once everyone arrived at Finley’s Wunsch Auditorium on Monday, the commemorative program began. After several calls of “Harambe!” — Swahili for “all pull together” — led by M.C. Sheryl Goodine, the audience was reenergized for the occasion after their march to the school.
“This is the first program when I can proudly introduce my friend, who I consider to be like a second son, as the principal of Glen Cove High School,” Goodine said, before introducing Allen Hudson and inviting him to the stage. Goodine, whose father marched with
King, is a former assistant principal of the high school.
In an interview with the Herald before the event, Hudson said the holiday is a day to reflect upon a man who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“As an African American male, I believe it’s my duty to make sure I’m involved in the event and pay homage to a man who gave his all,” Hudson said.
The ceremony featured performances by Glen Cove High School’s select chorale and drumline, young dancers from the Edge School of the Arts dance company and the First Baptist Church Adult Choir. The themes tying all performances together were the importance of speaking out about equality for all, and King’s enduring legacy of community service.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man of deep faith, compassion and dedication,” Glen Cove Mayor Pamela Panzenbeck said. “He reminded us all that the time is always right to do right. He challenged us all to live up to the fact that we are all created equal and that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The message King gave so many years ago remains relevant today, Panzenbeck added — and although it’s heard by many, it’s not embraced by all. “We must all strive to do something good every day, to treat one another with dignity and respect and to help one another when we can,” she said.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. For Glen Cove, the program recognized the efforts of the North Shore Soup Kitchen and NOSH, an extension of the soup kitchen. Both programs provide weekly hot and nutritious meals for community members in need.
One of the morning’s speakers, Brenda Lopez, spoke of her experience as a single mother when she first moved to the city years ago during Thanksgiving.
“I was in a very difficult situation,” Lopez said. “I was too proud to ask my family for food, for help or for anything.”
Lopez said a good friend placed her on a list to receive food donations for the holiday. She was touched by the gesture and realized that Glen Cove was a community in which people care for one another.
“It was something that has stuck with me, it is something that I will never forget,” Lopez said. “I am so thankful for people who decide to serve others because at one point it was me.”
Lopez said she wants to encourage people in the community to make a difference. “Even if it’s a smile, even if you don’t have a lot of money, your time can make a difference,” she said. “Even if you don’t know what else to do, listening to someone can make a difference.”