Attorney Frederick K. Brewington cited Scripture as he told more than 600 people at a memorial breakfast Monday that they were all called to continue Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy of fighting "the spiritual hosts of wickedness" behind racism and social injustice.
It's up to each, he told the audience, to address the "what now" of King's dream.
"I say to this room, from pillar to corner, 'What now? What is it we are going to do?' " asked Brewington, a Hempstead lawyer known for his involvement in civil rights cases, as he pointed to the high rate of incarceration of black men that has "created a racial caste."
King, he said, set the example by "forcing the dialogue" that led to sweeping reforms.
"He made clear that when you question and challenge injustice, you have to refuse to be silenced," said Brewington. "Dr. King faced dogs. He faced physical violence. He faced threats, fire hoses. He stood for peace. He stood for justice."
Among elected officials in attendance, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone told those at the breakfast that King's work remains forever relevant because of "that legacy, that good people must stand up and fight against injustice."
People also gathered in churches, halls and streets to remember King.
They joined about 250 residents for a program called "One Nation, One People -- The Time is Now" at Finley Middle School, where Mayor Ralph V. Suozzi called Glen Cove "a beautiful place because of its diversity."
Suozzi asked the audience filled with students, religious leaders, police and firefighters to live King's message and to build a better community.
"If you cannot help your neighbor, you cannot help your neighborhood," he said.
The Rev. Roger C. Williams, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Glen Cove, encouraged residents to pick up where King left off.
"Know that 'We Shall Overcome' is merely an opening hymn, it is not the benediction," he said. "Let us march on."
Shirley Coverdale, one of the memorial breakfast's organizers, sounded a similar note after the four-hour event.
"It's not just about having a breakfast and networking, which is nice," Coverdale said, "but about the work that starts when we leave here."