On Thursday, April 4, 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated by a sniper as he stood while standing on a balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. News of his death was greeted with an outpouring of grief and rage. Riots erupted all over the country, primarily in black urban areas. At least 110 cities experienced violence and destruction in the next few days, resulting in roughly $50 million in damage. Of the 39 people who died, 34 were black. The worst riots were in Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Over 22,000 federal troops and 34,000 national guard were sent to aid local police — the largest ever called to deal with domestic civil disturbance. In many cities the devastation was so great that it left a permanent scar, which was still evident decades later.
Today, 50 years later, while things are better, we still face many of the situations in this country that we did then, such as police killing on African-Americans, systemic racism in law enforcement, the courts and our prison systems, fair wages and affordable housing just to name a few. In some ways, many of my elders who would know tell me things are somewhat worst. While it looks good on paper, we haven’t truly made the advancements we think and quality of life for minorities and the poor are just as bad. For many Dr. King’s dream has become a nightmare, we are still fighting for justice and jobs.
I decided to reach out to few of our elected officials here in Westchester to hear their thoughts and to give them a chance to reflect Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,…
Westchester County Executive George Latimer shared with Black Westchester; “50 years ago today our nation was robbed of a hero. A man who stood up for what was right and inspired millions to do the same. Because of what Dr. King believed we as a country, state and county are for the better – but his true dream has yet to be fully realized. Today is a day to reflect on what came before us, mourn for the man we lost, and act on what has yet to be accomplished – no matter the obstacles.”
Peekskill Mayor Andre Rainey shared with Black Westchester: “Today marks the anniversary of a man’s life, that was taken, who in my opinion, is responsible for the success of millions, after his time. Martin Luther King Jr’s life was taken, in exchange, to give the better experience of life to others. Though we still have to fight, because of his sacrifices, the fight is little easier. I thank you MLK.”
Mount Vernon Council President Pro Tem André Wallace had this to say; Although we’ve made a lot of strides in this country in the last 50 years, we still have a long way to go. Even though we have many minorities in higher positions, including having the first African-American President, we still have a long way to go. Even when we reach the higher positions, we still have glass ceilings to deal with. Right now we have President Obama’s successor trying his best to undo all he had accomplished and wipe his legacy from history.
But we do not need to look national, look at what they tried to do to State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, our highest African-American elected female in New York State. From the disrespectful race based language of Daniel Loeb, who is a top donor to Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo to the the creation of the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC), a preemptive strike to weaken her position?
There is a major need for role models in our inner cities and communities in the area of business and self-development. Until we learn to come together as a people and focus on lifting each other up rather tearing each other down, our purchasing power, our voting power and our creative abilities, others will continue to benefit from the things that we do.
We do need to look back, because if you do not know where you came from, you will not know where you are going, but it’s time to stop resting on the laurels of the accomplishments of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Era and truly put in the work, that needs to be done today and tomorrow. That should be the take-away from today!
Former Mount Vernon City Councilman Yuhanna Edwards tells Black Westchester: “As a 20-year-old Unconscious AFRICAN American Man I was in the Jungles of Vietnam and do not remember being told that the Prince of Peace was Assassinated, at the time. I wonder why not. If I knew then, what I know now, I would not have served. We are still…being Hung. Because of Him we are…
But, if we don’t Wake – up and Devise a PLAN, when, and if, we wake – up, we’ll look back and see, we haven’t come as far as we Should have in 50 years!!!”
Congressman Eliot L. Engel (16th congressional district – NE Bronx and parts of Westchester County) tells BW; “Fifty years ago today we lost one of the most remarkable figures in our nation’s history.
“On April 4th, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King was in Memphis to lead a march protesting the working conditions and low wages of the city’s sanitation workers, and in his final speech, he spoke of how racial and economic injustice are inextricably linked. His words were prescient then and remain vitally important today.
“It’s important for us to reflect on Dr. King’s legacy and rededicate ourselves to the fight against inequality. While the Civil Rights Movement made great strides, our country has not overcome many of the injustices that Dr. King witnessed. In Congress, I remain committed to ending these injustices. I am fighting for true equality for all; for equal pay and fair treatment at work, expanded voting rights, educational equity, criminal justice reform, freedom from gun violence in our schools and on our streets, and health care for all Americans.
Dr. King argued that only by sticking together in a determined way, can we make America what it ought to be. I am inspired by the young people of today who are following in Dr. King’s footsteps by launching their own movements for equality and justice. Together we can move our country forward and live up to the ideals of equality that Dr. King inspired.”
New Rochelle Councilman Jared Rice agrees; “50 years later, we are dealing with many of the same struggles that Dr. Martin Luther King was up against. It is up to future generations to achieve the dream that he gave his life for”.
Yonkers Councilwoman Shanae V. Williams shares; “Such a timeless soul was snatched from us simply because his philosophy was way ahead of his time. He believed in equality for all and that belief made him a threat and a target. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s words still ring true today and always will. May we all keep his words in our hearts.”
“ Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
David Tubiolo, County Legislator of District 14 (Mount Vernon & Yonkers) added; “Today in a country so divided we should look back on the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and look back on how we can come together for a better, more tolerant country.”
“As we reflect on Dr. King’s legacy today, let’s recommit to making his vision a reality. We need leaders at every level who are dedicated to progress and creating meaningful change,” Assemblywoman Shelley Mayers, who running in a Special Election for George Latimer’s vacant State Senate seat, April 24th shares with Black Westchester.
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas wrote on Facebook; “50 years ago today, the country was shattered by the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As Congressman Lewis shares in a video, being on the right side of history and standing up for truth is essential, even in the face of evil.”
PAUL FEINER, Greenburgh Town Supervisor had this to say; Greenburgh is trying to encourage people to practice Dr. King’s vision through action steps such as this. We are always inspired by his words and dreams. We are proud that our community is diverse and that we give opportunities to the less fortunate among us… 50 YEARS AGO TODAY REV. DR. MARTIN L. KING JR WAS MURDERED. Dr. King invoked the truth ….that all humans ought to be treated with a certain dignity. Greenburgh has a very active Human Rights Committee. The committee, thanks to the hard work of Jonathan Campozano and Karine Patino, organized a forum—K shared on his know your Rights for Immigrants. The You Tube video that they created can be viewed by clicking to the link below. The committee meets monthly and welcomes the participation of other residents in the community who care about human rights.”
County Legislator Lyndon Williams (13th Legislative District – Mount Vernon) shared on his Facebook page, how prejudice, ignorance and violence still plague the county 50 years later…
Exactly one year before his assassination, on April 4, 1967, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave a speech that may have helped put a target on his back. That speech, entitled Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break The Silence, was an unequivocal denunciation of America’s involvement in that Southeast Asian conflict. We all like to talk about Dr. King having a dream, but miss the message. Like most have stated above, we have come along way but there is much still to be done. I leave you with the words of Dr. King; “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” That time has come for us…”