Bronx Community Board 9 members and a couple of Parkchester residents on Monday gathered at the Metropolitan Oval for the Martin Luther King Jr candlelight vigil.
The event also honored the Bronx Community leaders that died from COVID-19 and these included former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Parkchester branch president Beverly Roberts, CB 9 board members Sharan Fernandez, Rev Sidney Hargrave, Al Heyward and former Castle Hill Public housing Tenant Association president and community activist Roxanne Reid.
District manager for CB9, William Rivera who organized the event said the vigil had been planned for a long time.
"We are not only here for Martin Luther King but for our board members who passed on due to COVID-19. This is something that me and Beverly were planning. She was the president of the NAACP a couple of years ago and the least we can do as a community is have this event in her name," Rivera said.
"Martin Luther King was a great pioneer in our country, today is a federal holiday as he deserves. At the time in our country when we are very divisive, we need more leaders like MLK now and hopefully, we can go in the direction of healing after having our new president.
"Roxanne Reid was the president of the Castle Hill development, we were not able to put on the flyer but we also remember her on this day. It is a day of service and also a day of remembering.
"Everyone that we are honoring today that passed away, for their service to the community either as a board member in the precinct council, as a clergy member, happens to be African-American. It is good that even though those people passed away from COVID-19, we are able to remember them as a day of service. All the service they have done to the community I think that's a great day today to honor them with Martin Luther King."
Assembly-woman for New York State's 80th District Nathalia Fernandez said Martin Luther King Day was about celebrating, giving service and inspiring one another for a better future.
"I want to give my condolences to the members that have passed from COVID-19. A candlelight vigil is also symbolic of quotes that Dr King said: "You cannot drive out hate with darkness, only light will do that." I hope this light is a tool and a symbol to us bringing light to our loved ones," Assembly-woman Fernandez said.
"I am so excited for the future and as much as there is that excitement and belief that things will be better with the new administration, we have to make sure that we hold the administration accountable and that they are doing things that are helping the community," she added.
Justin Westbrook-Lowery, a Democratic Male District leader and Assembly District leader, said people should always bear in their minds that even as they get divided based on ideologies, it was always important for them to come together and show some love to their fellow human beings.
"It's important to come together and love each other in order to unify and be able to confront many other problems that we have today. I am honored to be here as a former Bronx Community board 9 member who served with many other leaders who passed on from COVID-19," Westbrook-Lowery said.
"I served under the social services committee when Rev Sidney Hargrave was the chair of that committee. He was a very great spirit to work with. We did a panel on mental health and wellness a few years ago that was very impactful. Sharon Fernandez who we lost to COVID-19 was a very special spirit who I was able to serve with on the board and definitely Beverly Roberts who was the board member and president of NAACP Parkchester branch. Her life is so very special. She left so much wisdom amongst all of us and definitely words to live by and advise to be able to implement in our daily lives. Lastly, Mr Al Heyward who was the former chair of the board. He was a great spirit who was dedicated to the community. It is great that we are able to come together to honor their legacy."
New York City council member for the 14th District Fernando Cabrera said he always remembers the life of Martin Luther King as someone who made a difference to the world at a very young age.
"May we take our beacon call from heaven to serve our community because there is nothing greater we can do than to love our neighbor. Sometimes there is a cost, like MLK paid the high price. But we are here for a reason, to make a difference. Together we can," Cabrera said.
"During this time when communities of color especially are struggling, we are still going through the same struggles that we had before. We had only one percent of the Small Business Services given during this COVID-19. When I see all of the nicer housing being deprived of the 40 billion from the federal government that is due to them, I could hear the voice of Martin Luther King say; we have got to do better. We must do better and we will do better."
Mohammed Mujumder, a community leader, said there was a need to embrace the leadership qualities of Martin Luther King to avoid the events of January 6, when rioters invaded the Capitol Hill.
Pamela Stewart-Martinez, a female district leader in the 87th Assembly District, expressed happiness for being at the event saying she was happy for what the gathering was about.
"It's about Martin Luther King and his service to the nation, that's why they named today a national day of service. It seems so appropriate to honor the people who we lost during this time period of COVID-19 who were pillars in our community offering their service to our community. What I hope we take from this is that we all do our best to be the best community and public servants by making sure that the Bronx doesn't remain 62 when it comes to help or 62 when it comes to education. We should all be invested in doing our part, our service as elected officials, party position people, we have to ensure that we provide the best service possible to our community," concluded Stewart-Martinez.
Monique Denise Fairrington, a female district leader for the 87th district urged people not to wait for Martin Luther King Day to engage in acts of kindness but that it should be an everyday thing.