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Mamaroneck Event Educates Students on Dr. King

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Mamaroneck students recited Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail" Wednesday night at Hommocks Middle School as part of the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Committee on Human Rights' Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration.

Their teacher, Shannon Turner-Porter invites students to do a "dramatic presentation" of a famous speech each year.

Mamaroneck resident Corali Joseph watched her daughter Celeste, 40, recite one of King's speeches at the first celebration in 1988 and was there Wednesday to watch the latest recitals.

"For this community, I think that it is a way to get students involved and teach them about the history of Dr. King," said Joseph, whose four children all graduated from Mamaroneck High School. "It breaks down barriers when people get together for an event like this."

The annual event is hosted by the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Committee on Human Rights, with the help of the Local Summit. Each year, they honor an individual or organization for carrying on the ideals of equal opportunity championed by King. This year they honored John Gitlitz, a Mamaroneck resident and associate professor of Latin American Studies, Immigration, and Human Rights at Purchase College.

"The social services of his agency and its community education program, which he oversaw, have been widely credited with leading to local acceptance of new immigrants and their right to seek work," said Mary Lee Berridge, of the Local Summit.

Gitlitz also helped found the Mamaroneck Hispanic Resource Center, and led it as co-president and then president from 2005 to 2010, a pivotal period for local immigrant rights, Berridge said.

The co-founders and volunteers of the Larchmont Gazette, the community's first online news site, received a special tribute for their contributions to communications. Judy Silberstein, who accepted the honor, announced the publication, which had been suspended since Sept. 2010, is now officially cancelled. But, the Larchmont Historical Society agreed to take their archives and preserve them online in perpetuity, Silberstein said.

The keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, delivered a sermon-like address. He implored everyone to dig deeper into King's message than just the famous line, "I have a dream." The senior pastor of the Riverside Church of New York City stressed to the audience that economic justice was the end game King strived, and ultimately died for.

"I think Dr. King would say unemployment is an unacceptable arrangement in sight of God, and that God will not rest until we are all high servants of God with bread enough to spare," Forbes said.

"I thought it was a beautiful tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," said Evonza Smith-Kilgore, of New Rochelle. "The speaker was on point, and Dr. King would have liked that."

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