Sunset Park marks King’s birthday

Signs offering directions to the bathrooms in the basement of Saint Jacobi Lutheran Church in Sunset Park are written in Chinese. The kitchen smells like Mexican food. Visitors are greeted in English. And, on January 22, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, traditional African music could be heard throughout.

“Today we celebrate a man who fought for so many. We celebrate together because we’re all in this together,” exclaimed a speaker at the event, Día de Unidad. “Black, white, orange, brown, it doesn’t matter. We’re together.”

The event was coordinated by Occupy Sunset Park, an organization that seeks to be a model to the community by promoting their ideas through a simple slogan: “Recover. Rebuild. Resist.”

Many events were scheduled for Día de Unidad, including a project in which everyone in attendance wrote su lucha

As five-year-old Sol, who “has an old, old soul,” played the drums, organizers sang out, “I feel Martin, I feel Martin in this place.” After that, visitors were invited to say aloud the names of deceased loved ones while the congregation prayed. Names of people of many nationalities could be heard in the crowd.

Some visitors set up laptops and video-chatted friends and loved ones as traditional music, speeches, and poetry were performed, so that an even more diverse group than the one present in the church could enjoy the day’s celebrations and memorials.

A photo memorial was set up in the basement, alongside pictures and banners from Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Sunset Park. Everyone from the cooks to greeters gathered for food, discussion and remembrance after the festivities.

“I came here to keep the struggle for justice alive,” shared Karen, while Ted affirmed that he stands for the same principles as King: “Peace, justice, and non-violence.”

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