BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
On Jan. 20, dozens of parents and their children gathered at the St. Albans Presbyterian Church to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy at the fourth annual Dream to R.E.A.D. event.
The celebration, hosted by the Queens Community Parent-Teacher Student Association, sought to stress the importance of parental involvement and encourage children to read and write – all while learning about King and his historic relevance in the Civil Rights Movement.
Students from a variety of neighborhood schools celebrated the day by reading together and hearing a few words of encouragement from three authors, Guishyloh Boursiquot, DaeQuan Morrison and Tina Anderson Crayton – all of whom were published before they even entered junior high school.
Parents, like James Tatum, took advantage of the day off from work to spend the day with their children and show their support.
“This is all about making sure she continues reading and increasing her vocabulary. I think it’s extremely important,” said Tatum, who attended the event with his daughter Janilla. “I am the PTA president at her school, PS 37. I am also president of the father’s club. Parental involvement in a child’s education is most important thing that you can do because they need that guidance and enlightenment.”
In his experience as PTA president, Tatum said, far too many fathers are not involved with their children’s education. This is why he believes it is especially important for dads to attend events like these in the community.
“The most important thing is that we as males need to have more of an influence on our children,” he said. “I’m sad to say that there are a lot of males that are not involved with their families and a lot of women need to be mom and dad.”
In addition to encouraging his daughter to continue reading, Tatum said he was looking forward to sharing King’s legacy with his daughter.
“He was a man that was for all the people, but he loved children. Children are our legacy and he stressed that,” he said. “I heard a lot of speeches growing up, when I was her [Janilla’s] age and I love telling her the stories.”
Following a musical performance by the Angels of Harmony, author and curator for History MEETS Hip Hop, Syreeta Gates, gave her keynote address in which she shared her success story, encouraging students to pursue their dreams much like she did.
“It feels amazing to be able to share my story,” she said. “My grandmother always said, to whom much is given, much is required. If I have the opportunity to share what I’ve learned in my 25 short years with a host of young people, that’s always phenomenal.”
“It’s necessary to bring things like this in the community, especially when people from the community put on the event,” Gates added. “It’s necessary that young people use platforms like this to demonstrate their talents. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.”
Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org or @nkozikowska.