By Peter Sorkin
King, who grew to national prominence after leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1958 and the historic March on Washington in 1963, was killed by James Earl Ray in 1968 at the age of 39. He would have been 72 on Jan. 15.
The presentation was sponsored by the Borough President's office and the African-American Heritage Planning Committee, said Andrew Jackson, director of the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center in Corona.
Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, who has helped organize Queens' official tribute to King for the past 11 years and called LaGuardia Community College “one of the best two-year colleges in the United States,” said the civil rights leader must be remembered for his contributions to American society.
“Dr. King represents for us all the highest value of citizenship and was a symbol of freedom and opportunity,” Shulman said. “He was truly a wonderful person. But he was taken from us much too soon. Let us take this occasion to celebrate Dr. King and celebrate his work. We must continue Dr. King's march tonight”
Gail Mellow, who has been at the helm of LaGuardia Community College since August, said she appreciated Shulman's efforts to bring King's birthday celebration to her school.
“We're here because many people have been touched by this one extraordinary man,” she told the crowd.
Opening the presentation was the singing of the national anthem by The Harlem Boys Choir, who also closed the show. The Harlem Boys Choir, which had just returned from a trip to Israel, performed several numbers, including a Duke Ellington medley and several gospel songs.
After the event had concluded, Mellow said the performance by the Harlem Boys Choir touched her.
“I truly enjoyed it,” she said. “What a way to celebrate [King's] legacy. What's exciting to me is the collaboration that brought them here. I was very moved. It shows the power of education and the spirit of togetherness. They really had it on stage tonight.”