More than 300 people of various races and religions took part in the in the 28th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Interfaith Worship Service sponsored by The Peekskill Area Pastor’s Association (PAPA) and Mount Olivet Baptist Church on Monday night.
Attendees of the event, held at included community members, clergy and numerous elected officials, spent the evening focusing on the theme for this year’s event, which was “Reviving the Spirit and Restoring the Dream” of Dr. King.
After an opening prayer said by Envoy Chaka Watch of the Salvation Army, Dr. Jim Willis, Superintendent of Peekskill City Schools welcomed the crowd and thanked them for coming.
From there a night of emotional performances and passionate speakers ensued. One-by-one, the event’s participants paid homage to Dr. King through words, songs, and even dance.
Archbishop Michael Champion, President of PAPA, took the stage and told the crowd that they were joined together for the evening to “put Dr. King’s faith into practice,” and referred to Peekskill as a “beautiful religious mosaic.”
“We are here to celebrate the great accomplishments not just at the time of Dr. King, but throughout the decades,” Champion said. “And today we focus on Dr. King as a person of faith; not just his civic accomplishments.”
The evening’s Celebrant, Rev. Dr. Adolphus C. Lacey of Mount Olivet Baptist Church gave an emotion provoking speech which retraced the history of African-Americans in America and spoke about the political predecessors to King’s mission.
“You can’t celebrate the life of Dr. King without first understanding the crucible that gave birth to a need for Dr. King,” Lacey said.
Lacey then encouraged the crowd to continue the dream of King and break “everyday segregation” by reaching out to our neighbors.
“He left behind the dream, but it can be a nightmare if we don’t all do our part,” Lacey said.
In keeping with the theme of focusing on Dr. King as a man of faith, the multifaceted event also featured a variety of religious readings including various scared texts from different faiths including Hebrew, Christian, and Islamic. After the scared readings Peekskill Middle School student, Miles Harvey approached the podium to read from one of Dr. King’s speeches.
Other performances at the event included an emotional duet of “America the Beautiful” sung by Afua Yeboah of Peekskill High School and Sierra Nelson of Walter Panas High School. The song concluded with the crowd joining in and the singers were applauded as the crowd stood in ovation for them. (To watch this performance click on the Youtube video attached to this article).
Sharisse “She-Salt” Stancil-Ashford of White Plains impressed the crowd with her rhyming skills as she shared two vibrant spoken word segments with those in attendance, one of which paid a special tribute to Dr. King. An interpretive Liturgical Dance was performed by Kulay Tuhella, and The PAPA Interfaith Adult Choir as well as choir director Tuesday McDonald also lent their musical talents to the evening’s celebrations.
The night concluded in a moment that would have made Dr. King proud. As over a dozen representatives of various faiths lined up on the stage to join in prayer, each member of the audience took the hand of those standing next to them, and many swayed to the song “We Shall Over Come.”
After the event many of those in attendance embraced each other and commented on the success of the event.
“It was uplifting, and the interfaith approach is perfect,” said Westchester County Legislator, John Testa. “It was a pleasure to be a part of it.”
Other officials present at the event included Peekskill Mayor, Mary Foster, City of Peekskill Councilman Darren Rigger; Peekskill Councilwomen Kathleen Talbot and Marybeth McGowan, New York State Senator Greg Ball; Justin Wagner, who is running against Ball in this year's election, and newly elected Westchester County Legislator Catherine Borgia.
“It was a powerful service,” said Rabbi Lee Paskind of the of Peekskill.
“It was well-spirited,” said Champion. “It was meant to be a worship service where people felt free to express their emotions. Tonight we were able to celebrate what has been accomplished since the time of Dr. King, while still recognizing we have a long way to go to achieve full equality for all humanity.”