Rockland Psychiatric Center hosted its 29th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Birthday Commemoration Wednesday at the center’s catholic chapel.
The event centered around the idea of how to keep King’s message and legacy alive today. The main speaker at the event was Dr. LindaMichelle Baron, a teacher, poet and author. She’s a former New York City public school teacher and is currently an assistant professor in the Teacher Education Department at York College in New York City. She talked about how her job is to impart her students with knowledge on how to spread King’s teachings to their own students.
“The dream of freedom has got to start not just with the country and the world, but within, being free to love, give love in a positive way,” Baron said. “So what I was teaching and even now as I teach those who are going to become teachers, I’m going to help them to know that they have to help guide children into that freedom. That’s when you reclaim the dream. It’s a dream of freedom, of freeing ourselves from the prejudices and the hatred and the ways of diminishing people, based on any of the myriad of ways we view each other, and see the beauty of us, the depth of us, the soul of us, where ever we come from or whenever we were we were born or where ever or however.”
Baron also spoke about comparing King’s dream with what most think the American dream is.
“Sometimes as we look at what is the American dream, not the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about, but often times we think of the American dream as a dream of what?” Baron said. “Owning stuff.”
She continued to say that while it might be the dreams of many to own a house or a car, that’s not the dream King talked about.
“Many of us buy into the dream of what we got, what we can show and that’s who we are. And I say no to that,” she said. “I say no to that because that’s not what it means to be who we are. That’s not how we make a difference in this world. That’s not Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about. Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about a place where are more than what the world sees in us, and sometimes — and I think more so today maybe than back then — more than how we see ourselves.”
Christopher Tavella, executive director at Rockland Psych, talked about recent events involving violence. He also mentioned that it’s not necessarily a recent trend, and violence has been a part of the world dating back quite a while, referencing the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. He also spoke about King’s nonviolence philosophy, and how his stance was solidified through the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.
“Violence is a part of us, but so are cooperation, altruism and love,” Tavella said. “Who is directing the focus, helping us to resolve this inner conflict between violence and love? Who now embodies the better angels of our nature? Who is that minority of one who is speaking the truth? Who know speaks for the dream that could be America? Just think about the role Dr. King would have today if he were still alive? But, no, like Lincoln and Gandhi, Dr. King is a victim of violence.”
Also at the event, clients of the center made presentations. One girl read three original poems dealing with topics such as looking within people and not judging them by their skin color, as well as growing up in a multi-cultural family. Other clients read a poem together. The Recovery Center Choir performed “If You’re Out There” by John Legend and “Heal The World” by Michael Jackson.
Rabbi Karen Sussan acted as the host of the event, introducing each speaker. She also opened the event with a prayer relating to remembering King’s legacy.
“Bless our entire Rockland Psychiatric Center community, those present and those not present today. Those treating and administering, those in treatment and recovery,” she said. “Help open our hearts and minds to be fully present so that we might contemplate the the power of Dr. King’s vision and good works. May we be encouraged, remembering his gentle, patient courage, demonstrated within our patience for evil, but a forbearance upon those mislead by it.”