The meeting room at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton Village was packed on Monday morning as the community celebrated the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The library’s annual observance of the birth of the civil rights leader, who was assassinated nearly 41 years ago, held extra significance this year because it took place on the eve of the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first African-American candidate elected to the nation’s highest office—or, as the library’s keynote speaker, Bonnie Cannon, put it, “on the crest of a new day of change and hope for the future.”
Ms. Cannon said she was just 5 years old when Dr. King was assassinated, but recalls the harrowing image of Bernice King, Dr. King’s youngest daughter, crying in the lap of her mother, Coretta Scott King.
Little did she know then what Dr. King’s life would mean for her beliefs and morals later in life, said Ms. Cannon, who in 2006 became the first African-American woman to be elected to the Southampton Village Board of Trustees.
Ms. Cannon, who is also a co-founder of the African-American Museum of the East End, cited some of Dr. King’s biggest feats: the Montgomery Bus Boycott, becoming the youngest man to earn the Nobel Peace Prize and delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech.
President Obama is Dr. King’s dream realized, and Ms. Cannon said she is a dream realized for black village residents before her time.
“Are you the next dreamer? Or are you the next dream realized?” she asked the crowd. Either way, please be one of them, she asked her the audience.
Just hours after delivering her speech, Ms. Cannon would head to Washington, D.C., with her son, Spencer, so they could witness together the inauguration of Mr. Obama as the 44th president of the United States.
“It truly is an historic occasion …” said U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, who addressed the library crown between vocal performances by Edith Fleming, Diane Westwood and Tramar Pettaway, declaring, “It would not have been possible without the life of Martin Luther King.”
Mr. Bishop said he was confident President Obama would be successful, but he said the new president will need the country’s patience, support, and love—the same love that Ms. Cannon said was the foundation for everything Dr. King accomplished in his life.
“Martin Luther King opened that door,” Mr. Bishop said. “Many people have walked through that door. Barack Obama has kicked down that door.”