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Impassioned Celebration: PS 261 students fill steps of Borough Hall for Dr. King rally

Rain Does Not Diminish Songs, Speeches & Spirit

January 12, 2018 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Students from P.S. 261 in Boerum Hill crowd the steps of Borough Hall to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Eagle photo by Kat Ramus
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Students from P.S. 261 in Boerum Hill gathered on the steps of Borough Hall on Friday, Jan. 12 for the 10th anniversary of their march to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Students from grades three to five attended while fifth grade students prepared speeches extoling King’s message of equality, justice and love.

Retired former principal Zipporiah Mills started the march in 2008 and it has continued to grow since then under the guidance of Principal Jacqueline Allen Joseph, Parent Coordinator Heather Weston and the so-called “queen” of the march, teacher Catherine Pacilo.

After an impassioned rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” the students took turns reading their speeches to the enthusiastic crowd that attentively listened as the rain fell. Not a single umbrella was unfurled out of respect for the solemnity of the occasion.

Fifth grader Sarah Cocco spoke eloquently about her heritage and what the march meant to her. “I am Jewish, Italian and I’m here for myself and every woman on the planet,” said Cocco. And echoing the words of King she added, “I have a dream that one day women and girls will be seen for what we really are — strong, smart kind and not afraid to be who we are,” as the crowd erupted with shouts and applause.

She addressed the topics of racism, homelessness and unity saying, “I have a dream that I and no one else on this planet will have to fear adversity because of their race. People should be known for who they are, people should be known for their deeds, people should not be bullied for who they love or what gender they are.

“People should not be denied shelter and sanctuary because we are one race, the human race … people shall seek justice; play together, laugh together, cry together, grow together, learn together, eat together, stand together …

I have a dream that one day we will live in a world where everybody matters.”

Other student speakers included Elliot Wells, Bayan Clark, Bryan Montes Vega, Noura Ali, Evan Estrella, Keira James, Farrah Mussa and Nasma Shkais.  

Fifth grade teacher Nan Oshea told the Brooklyn Eagle, “This is our 10th anniversary. We’ve been coming here for 10-years rain or shine to stand on the steps. Our fifth grade students used their reading and writing skills to write speeches on the theme of civil rights.

“This is the first year here for the third graders and the fourth graders come to see what they will be up against next year. It’s part of our cultural criticism unit. Every student wrote a speech and the speeches presented today are a combination. Each of those kids represents an embodiment of the principles of Dr. King. And it’s a very moving day.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams thanked the students and the parents for their efforts in this march. “I woke up this morning reading the paper and hearing some of the comments that were made by the president of this country and there was a level of sadness that I felt. And the universe has a way of responding to our sadness because that frown turned into a smile every time I heard these young people,” Adams said to cheers and applause.

“In order for us to move not only Brooklyn or New York or America in the right direction, it is imperative that we allow our young people to understand the power in what they say and what they do.”

Adams offered his own words of inspiration to the students standing behind him. “Young people look to the right of you, look to the left of you, look behind you. 47 percent of Brooklynites speak a language other than English at home. This is the place where if we did it right in Brooklyn, we would show the entire globe how to get it right.”

The children all proudly held signs with various messages of hope: “Peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” “People Matter,” “Blacks and Whites Together,” “Women’s Rights,” “Gay Rights,” “Come Together,” “Right to Live” and one sign read, “My Outrage Can’t Fit on This Sign!”

“Your signs are important,” said Adams. “Your stories are important, your words are important and the march of Dr. King is so important. Let’s continue to build our country and we will out-Trump Trump any day.”


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