Peekskill Middle School’s 555-seat auditorium was nearly filled up to capacity Monday as residents, students, government and religious gather for the 29th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Service.
The event was co-sponsored by the Peekskill Area Pastor’s Association (PAPA) and Mount Olivet Baptist Church. Officials in attendance included Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster and most of the Common Council; Westchester County Legislator John Testa, R-Peekskill; state Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, D-Ossining; and Kathie Davidson, as supervising judge for family courts in the state’s Ninth Judicial District.
William Colona, a representative from the office U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Harrison; and Yolanda Robinson, the Westchester regional director for state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, were also in attendance.
“Our theme for today is keep dreaming,” said Mount Olivet's Rev. Adolphi Lacey, the event’s master of ceremonies. “The point is that there are many of us, particularly as we gather with our youth, that have given up on dreaming. I expect that what we want to encourage you to do is to keep dreaming.”
Keynote speaker Zead Ramadan reiterated Lacey’s message. Ramadan serves as the trustee for the Hudson Valley Islamic Cultural Center in Mohegan Lake and board chairman for the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial & Educational Center in New York City.
During his speech Ramadan referred to a line from Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran’s poem "On Death": “And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.”
“It’s about dreaming about what you can be and never quitting, even if you’re under the frosted, bitter freeze,” Ramadan said. “But holding out hope...even in the face of difficulties when it sometimes seems insurmountable or the odds look so big like you can’t do it, but you can and you should never, ever give up.”
The event was also highlighted by readings of Hebrew, Christian and Islamic text; a rendition of "America the Beautiful" by Afua Yeboah, student at Walter Panas High School, and Sierra Nelson, a Peekskill High School student.
Peekskill's Woodside and Hillside elementary schools and the MLK Jr. Youth choir closed out the service with renditions of "I Have a Dream," "Dr. King's Melody" and "We Shall Overcome."