Several hundred people packed into Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Copiague on Monday to cheer the performance of a multiracial school choir and to hear messages recalling the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s calls for racial unity.
The music presented by the Copiague High School Madrigal Choir, Amityville High School Jazz Band and the Venettes Choir, a Wyandanch-based youth gospel group, brought the crowd to its feet.
The audience, while mostly African-American, included other ethnicities and races — something many attendees applauded.
“I think that’s what he wanted. This was part of his dream,” said Shoshanah Pabon, whose 16-year-old daughter is in the Copiague madrigal group, which is racially mixed.
Pabon said her own background is a combination of Spanish, Iranian and Jewish, and her husband is Puerto Rican.
“I love this day,” said LaToya Gibbs, who is African-American and a church member. “Martin Luther King means everything to me. I appreciate everyone coming together and being one.”
Some of the speakers at the two-hour service referred to what they called the divisive language coming out of the White House and said it was the opposite of what King would have wanted.
The Rev. Robert Leibold of Simpson United Methodist Church in Amityville called for greater unity.
“As Dr. King observed, we may all have come on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now,” Leibold said. “We have to tear down the fences, the fences of language and politics and racial” divisions.
The event was among a full slate of observances across Suffolk and Nassau counties Monday — many held in churches — on the federal holiday that marks King’s birthday.
The civil rights leader’s birth date was Jan. 15, and the holiday is held each year on the third Monday in January.