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King's message of inclusion lauded at Mass

The Rev. Jacob Onyumbe, transitional deacon from the

The Rev. Jacob Onyumbe, transitional deacon from the Congo, speaks during a ceremony. Our Holy Redeemer Church in Freeport hosted a birthday celebration Mass in recognition of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Jan. 15, 2012) Credit: Steve Pfost

The message of inclusion and empathy spread by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was reinforced Sunday in a Mass dedicated to the late civil rights leader at Freeport's Our Holy Redeemer Church.

"He was a hero. He did great things. He ended discrimination," the Rev. Jacob Onyumbe, a transitional deacon, said in a guest homily. "He stood up for a minority. He stood up for a people that couldn't speak."

Onyumbe called on parishioners to peacefully stand up for those without a voice, as King did.

King wasn't Catholic, but he was Christian and he preached unity, said the church's pastor, the Rev. Douglas R. Arcoleo.

Fagan Toulon, 59, of Freeport, a parishioner and a member of the Ministry of Catholics of African Descent, which sponsored the Mass, said after the service that King's legacy will last for generations to come.

"He wanted love to be felt between each other, no matter what color or class," Toulon said. "When he said he had a dream, the dream really was something he saw at the end of the tunnel and he left it up to us to grow."

Camille Cameau, 14, of Freeport, said she thought King would be proud of today's more tolerant America, but said there's still more work to be done. "Even though the Jim Crow laws are gone, people still need to change," she said.

Later Sunday, at the Freeport Memorial Library, jazz musician and educational speaker Shenole Latimer led a forum analyzing King's "I Have a Dream" speech in the context of the Baptist pastor's life experiences and the history of jazz.

Latimer, 38, of Moriches, said King fought many types of discrimination.

"Even though people tend to group him with the civil rights movement and the black rights movement . . . he wanted equality for everyone who was economically challenged," Latimer said.

The audience swapped life stories about King and racism they've endured.

Estelle Bloom, of Levittown, who said she's "over 80," recalled that she was in Washington, D.C., in 1963 for the "Dream" speech. She called it "an outstanding day."

Acheson Wilson, 55, of Westbury, said younger generations must be educated about King's legacy and his work to end bigotry.

"It happened back then and it's happening today. This problem is going to continue," he said. "We have programs like this once a year, but we have to have this 365 days a year."

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