By Jano Tantongco
Rev. Keith Hayward lit up the Bethel A.M.E. Church of Huntington as the keynote speaker of the Martin Luther King Jr. Jubilee program, hosted by the Huntington branch of the NAACP on Monday.
Hayward, pastor of the Bethel A.M.E. Church in Copiague, was born in Bermuda as the son of a pastor, and immersed himself in biblical studies from an early age.
He referred to documents like the Emancipation Proclamation, which was read aloud by members of the NAACP youth branch, and the Declaration of Independence, from which he cited, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
He recounted a discussion with a colleague, imagining three babies born in a hospital, one being African American, another white and the third Asian.
“The declaration says that they are [equal]... until they are taken out of the hospital,” Hayward said.
Hayward noted that most people do not know that his grandmother is white and from England, alluding to the fact that people have more in common than what is seen on the surface. He then turned his attention to state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, a member of the audience.
“Chad is a man of color,” Hayward said. “I’m a man of color. When I look at Chad, I don’t see Chad as a Caucasian man. When I look at him, I see myself.”
Next, he asked Lupinacci to put his hands behind his back.
“When you put your hands behind your back, you can’t see your color,” Hayward said. “When he sees me, he sees himself.”
Lupinacci called King an inspiration for everyone, and said that “in different lessons, we’ve all taken away different things especially in our practical lives.”
“One of the things I’ve always looked to Dr. King for guidance is voting rights,” said Lupinacci, who serves on the election law committee in Albany. “In our country today there are still many barricades that do not allow people the right to vote.”
Huntington Councilman Eugene Cook added, “We have to praise Dr. Martin Luther King for one great reason: he brought us all here tonight to enjoy this great evening.”
Dolores Thompson, former Huntington NAACP president, introduced the night’s speakers. As she introduced her daughter, Councilwoman Tracey Edwards, Thompson said, “Now this other person, I kind of know who she is. I believe I gave birth to her as a matter of fact.”
Edwards emphasized the need for African Americans to make their voices heard year-round, not just in January for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and in February for Black History Month.
“What we need to do though is to make sure after this day, and after February, we stay in the hearts and minds of everyone not only in Suffolk County, not only in the Town of Huntington, but all over the country,” Edwards said. “I have a full calendar in February, but I’m Tracy Edwards in March!"