This is an article that appeared in the Freeman on Sunday. Because of the comment about the attack at the local high-school on young Robbie Hedrick being "overblown," a lot of the members of the racist right have their panties in a bunch. I wonder what you think?
TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE
His dream lives on
By Blaise Schweitzer , Freeman staff
Today is the anniversary of the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., born 77 years ago in Atlanta, Ga. He was killed more than 37 years ago, but lives on in the works of some of those being honored Monday at a fund-raising event for the local, child-centered King's Kids program.
Last week the honorees met at the Pointe of Praise Family Life Center in Kingston, the future site of the program. They talked about current events that have been affected by King's enduring legacy.
The "Heroes in Our Backyard" are Elaine Fernandez, Sandy Hopgood, James B. Childs, Daniel Gartenstein, Dawn Defino, Tawana R. Washington and Denni Demosthenes.
"The biggest thing is just the message of peace and caring about your neighbor," said Fernandez, of Clermont. "Fighting and working together for what's important."
Fernandez is project director of Kingston Cares, a City of Kingston coalition that works with schools, parents, human services agencies, law enforcement, the faith community and others to address teen delinquency, substance use, school dropout and pregnancy. She edits and publishes The Citizen, a bi-monthly magazine serving Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia and Greene counties.
Hopgood, the community outreach coordinator of the Everette Hodge Midtown Community Center in Kingston, is being honored by King's Kids for her work with homeless families, putting together programs that have addressed drug use and Internet and bicycle safety through the City of Kingston-sponsored Hodge center.
Hopgood called poverty a disease that must be addressed. Just as the Rev. King progressed from civil-rights to labor and poverty issues in the years before his assassination, she said America needs to look at what the poor in this country must do to survive.
James B. Childs of Kingston, son of the Rev. James Childs, the Pointe of Praise patriarch, has done work on race issues through his position as director of Kingston's Commission on Human Rights and his JARA Consulting business, helping organizations recognize bias and respond to conflict. He said he also has found the response to Southern survivors of Hurricane Katrina overly focused on race.
"I think it was more to do with socio-economics than race. I'm not saying race had nothing to do it. I think socio-economically, if you're poor, you're poor before you're anything else," he said.
From there, though, he did say he has followed "code words" people used for black Americans in the South during the height of the crisis. He added that some of those same words are spoken in the North to similar effect.
"You start seeing it around affordable housing. (People say,) 'We don't want them.' Who are 'them'?" Childs asked. As voters object to affordable housing programs in their back yards, he said, they often get in the way of the people who most dearly need the assistance because of the crime problems voters associate with blacks. "Anytime something happens that has a negative spin on it, where someone's gotten hurt, we tend to look for someone to blame. (And some people say,) 'Let's blame them.'"
Childs said he would hope people in this region could use discussions such as those triggered by the white-supremacy rally in Kingston to move in a more positive, honest direction.
It was impossible to talk about King's legacy without talking about how some of his protest methods have been co-opted by members of the KKK and other white supremacists like Hal Turner, an Internet radio personality who organized the Nov. 19 rally on Broadway in Kingston.
Turner argued that his protest was peaceful and in the non-violent tradition of the 1960s civil rights movement marches. His words of anger directed towards black youths involved in fights eclipsed his purported non-violent intentions.
Kingston attorney Daniel Gartenstein, also among those being honored at the King's Kids event, said the beating of a white youth that was supposedly the triggering event of the rally was overblown.
"The only people who know exactly what happened on that street that day were the children," Gartenstein said. "The people from New Jersey, the people from other states who were driving to this community (for the rally) certainly, had no idea. I'm the president of the school board, and I can't tell you exactly what happened. But immediately the focus was on, 'It's a black child who punched a white child.'"
Hopgood shook her head at the accusations of racism directed at the black youth involved in the incident. "Here we are, 40 years after all the civil rights activity, and we still have to question whether something is a racial issue or not?" she asked, rethorically.
Childs said, "We weren't saying we don't have any issues around being different - whether talking about race or gender or whatever. What we were saying is that it certainly isn't what he (Turner) was saying, what he was trying to purvey was really absolute nonsense. But now we can take this opportunity to figure out what our issues are: How does it impact how we interact with people?"
Hopgood said she has found that Americans grudgingly accept necessary change and pat themselves on the back for their "tolerance" of others. They need to adopt new vocabulary words and new attitudes, she said.
"The word is not tolerance, it is acceptance," she said. "We have to be clear about that."
Dawn Defino said her parents taught her that her childhood friends were welcome in her home regardless of race. Other issues were more important.
"There was my friend who was a person of character and there was someone who was not allowed in my home because their character does not meet with my values," she said.
She was present at some of the more violent race-related disruptions Kingston suffered in the 1960s, and agreed with Hopgood that progress has been insufficient. A single parent, Defino has worked for the New York State Education Department, developong a program to assist students with disabilities during their transistions from high school to work our higher education. She has also been a respite coordinator for the KidsPeace Natioinal Center's Crisis Respite Program.
Defino raised her children in a poor neighborhood and has tried to pass on her parents' values of acceptance, she said.
The connections between the King's Kids Hero honorees are many. Defino's father, Joseph Defino, coached James B. Childs through his career as a basketball guard playing for Kingston High School.
Childs said Defino was tough but fair.
"His coaching style was from Bobby Knight. Not as a person, he would never throw a chair. He was mild-mannered, but he kicked our behinds in practice," Childs said.
Childs said some of what Defino's father taught him on the basketball court remains with him to this day.
That's in keeping with Hopgood's belief that everyone bears responsibilities for nurturing children.
"We have to stay focused on that. It takes a whole village to raise a child," she said. Hopgood has hope that as Americans remember the Rev. King and his message, more progress will be made.
"Lots of people have forgotten about it," Hopgood said. "They don't even know who Martin Luther King is, some of the younger generation."
The other honorees at the King luncheon are Washington, a native of Kingston who volunteers with King's Kids and works with the City of Kingston's Commission on Human Rights; and Denni Demosthenes, who has supported King's Kids with support from his family's Hillside Manor restaurant. Washington, once a King's Kid herself, has worked for the YMCA's City Slickers summer program for two years, was a teacher's aide at Beginning's and once became a second mother to a child whose birth mother was dealing with severe personal problems. She also has provided one-on-one care for a child who needed special and extra attention. An Ulster County Community College graduate, she also holds a diploma in Child Day Care from the Professional Career Development Institute.