Sarah Campbell credits her high school sociology teacher, Lila Timpson, with instilling in her the importance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Every year on the third Monday of January, she said, Timpson would take the students from the majority white high school in Oakland, N.J. to march with people from diverse backgrounds in Ridgewood, N.J, a practice Campbell continued into adulthood. But this year, she decided she would bring the annual walk to her adopted hometown of Elmont.
“We have to come together as a community,” she said, adding that the Elmont community needed something to celebrate after such a tumultuous year, and it is “high time” the residents remember the Civil Rights icon.
“People used to be afraid of him,” Campbell said of Martin Luther King Jr., “but he was all about peace, love and equality.”
In 1963, the reverend doctor helped organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, preaching nonviolence in the quest for equal rights for Black Americans along the way, and on Monday, Campbell helped lead nearly 30 residents from the Elmont Memorial Library, down Meacham Avenue, back up Lehrer Avenue and to Hempstead Turnpike. They carried signs featuring quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speeches, like “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way,” and “...the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others” as drivers passed by honked their horns to show their support.
When Campbell first decided to organize the event as one of the co-founders of the Elmont Strong community organization two weeks ago, however, she did not know how many people would be interested in joining. “We weren’t sure if anyone was going to come out,” said Renee Williams, another co-founder. So, she said, they figured they would start with only a few people, “then keep growing.”
And that’s exactly what happened, as Angel Ramos, president of the National Latino Officers Association, joined the walk with his family as they passed the Elmont Fire Department Headquarters on Lehrer Avenue. “It’s not just an experience for me,” said Ramos, who brought his two young children to the walk in hopes they will grow up in a more just world.
“We want to keep his dream alive,” said Savitre Ferdinand, with County Legislator Carrié Solages explaining that Martin Luther King Jr. “rung the bell for justice and issues that still resonate today.”
The march came after a summer of nationwide protests against police brutality following the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn. But Monday was a different scene, as officers Victoria Ojeda and Angelica Caggiano escorted the marchers on their walk, and said they were glad the community came together to recognize such a significant figure in American history.