By Madina Toure
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz made a special donation of books honoring the African-American experience at a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at the Queens Central Library in Jamaica Saturday afternoon.
At a ceremony co-sponsored by the Queens borough president’s African-American Heritage Committee and the Queens Central Library on 89 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica, Katz announced the donation of three books to each branch of the Queens Library.
The books are Charles R. Smith Jr.’s “28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World;” Duncan Tonatiuh’s “Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Right for Desegregation;” and King’s “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” Katz also announced a lecture series that will touch on present-day race relations and civil as well as human rights struggles.
“Today we’re here to celebrate Martin Luther King, who really was the forefather of peaceful protest,” Katz said, noting that black Americans have made a number of donations and contributions to Queens.
She said King’s book, “Where Do We Go from Here,” is relevant given the current state of race relations in the United States.
“I think it is a very a propos book when the city of New York is at a crossroads in its history,” she said.
One copy of each of the three books was donated to the Queens Library’s 63 participating branches for a total donation to the library system of 189 copies.
The four-part lecture series is in partnership with the Queens Library and the African American Heritage Committee this year. The first lecture is scheduled for April.
The donation cost approximately $3,500. Resorts World Casino New York City provided the funding through the borough president’s African American Heritage Initiative.
Author and storyteller Joy Kelly, who grew up in Tennessee and witnessed the civil rights movement, performed songs from the movement.
Her father, Rev. Kelly Miller Smith, was a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and also worked with King.
While playing her guitar and singing, she shared with the audience her firsthand experience with school integration and what it was like to meet King and civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
She said she was struck by his speech on Aug. 28, 1963 and that King started a movement that still requires more action today.
“All of that work still remains work,” Kelly said. “When we get freedom, when we get equality, it’s what we do with it. That’s what Martin Luther King means.”
Harbachan Singh, a member of the Katz’s African American Heritage Committee and Community Board 8, praised the donation of the books, saying that it is an effort to educate children more about African-American history.
“They’re trying to fill that requirement,” Singh said in an interview with TimesLedger. “So that looks like it is taken care of now. It has a very good impact. The children are all very aware of Martin Luther King and his contributions.”
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.