The Northern Westchester Examiner

Peekskill Celebrates Human Race with Unity March

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The 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was marked in the City of Peekskill last Saturday with a March on Washington Street.

The event, co-sponsored by the Peekskill Youth Football League and Social Progress Advocates for Real Change (SPARC), a newly formed organization dedicated to raising community awareness surrounding challenging social, political and economic issues, attracted approximately 100 residents and local officials who were united by music and a common cause to keep the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King alive.

King delivered his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech on August 28, 1963 at the end of the March on Washington D.C., which drew more than 300,000 people.

“A new chapter in our history can begin now,” said SPARC co-founder Colin Smith, an attorney and member of the Peekskill Board of Education. “We feel there is only one race, that is the human race. Dr. King would have wholeheartedly embraced SPARC’s mission: Unity Builds Community.”

Reverend Stephany Graham of Peekskill Presbyterian Church stirred up the crowd when she remarked about how many problems King spoke about 50 years ago still remain unresolved.

“Fifty years later and we are still marching in America. Fifty years later and we are still singing the same freedom songs,” Graham said. “Fifty years of injustice still exists in America, inequality still exists in America, economic disparity still exists in America. It’s 50 years later, but we still have not awaken from the dream. If we simply march and don’t embrace the movement, we are simply sleepwalking. Let the movement continue in our homes, in our places of worship, in our schools, in our places of business.”

Deputy Mayor Drew Claxton, who revealed she grew up in an interracial household with her mother being white and her stepfather being African American, said her family experienced first-hand discrimination in the 1960s and were forced to move from Montrose to Peekskill.

“Peekskill has always been a welcoming community. My mother was very involved with the civil rights movement,” Claxton said. “I think this (the march) was a great idea. These are all people here who live in Peekskill. The people here know their community and people here do stand up for their community.”

The march, which ended with a program at Peekskill Middle School where King’s speech was shown, also included a small group of protestors, led by Darrell Davis, who continued their efforts to urge voters in November to toss out Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster and her Democratic running mates.

“The Democrats today are the most racist and hostile administration in Peekskill history,” literature handed out by Davis and the Committee for Justice alleged. “Unless there is significance change in Peekskill City Government leadership, these opportunists with an agenda to make Peekskill an upscale, elite community—pushing many of you out—will ruin this town and its soul beyond repair.”

Smith urged those at the march to “replace mistrust with friendship” and celebrate, instead of criticizing, differences.

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