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King steps in for missing N.Y. Gov

Story & photos by David Greene

Boxing promoter Don King stepped up to the plate at the last minute, delivering the keynote address at a luncheon in honor of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when New York Governor David Paterson disappeared from public view and the media, in the days following the Caroline Kennedy fiasco.

Nearly 1,000 people attended the annual luncheon. The event's organizer, Councilman Larry Seabrook, honored a half dozen, including Senator Charles Schumer, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and King, during the event held on Dreiser Loop in Co op City, on Saturday, January 24.

Senator Schumer told the crowd that newly-elected President Barak Obama was in office because of all those, "who lived lives of dignity and strength, despite the evil oppression of slavery, and Jim Crow and discrimination and bigotry that was thrown at them."

Schumer, who would read several paragraphs of King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail", added, "Dr. King was one of the greatest men in American history. In fact, look at this, he's the only man for whom a National holiday is named, the only single person."

Schumer asked the crowd, "You know why? He held up a mirror to America, he said, 'America, look at your self, aren't you ashamed of what you're doing?'"

Predicting the honeymoon with President Obama may soon be over, Council Speaker Quinn told the crowd, "The work just began on Tuesday. What we need to do now is be there to support the President, as he runs into opposition, which we know he will."

Proving that just not any Black man running for President would capture the love of the American public, New York City Controller Bill Thompson asked the crowd, "Think and ask yourself, if we were swearing in Clarence Thomas as the President of the United States, would you have been excited by it?" Many in the crowd responded, "No."

Recalling the incident of a family member, who was spit on for looking at a white man, New York 1 reporter Dean Memenger urged those in attendance, "A lot of our kids don't know these stories. Don't let the T. V. tell those stories. You tell them the stories so they understand their history."

King, a major supporter of the National Council for Negro Women and the NAACP, wore his customary American-flag-theme denim jacket, but has since added a tie with the faces of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Delivering the keynote address, King began, "I want to say only in America can a Don King happen, only in America can a Barak Obama happen."

King stated, "It's a long way we have come and a long way that we have to go, let us reflect. When George Washington united the thirteen colonies, and led them to beat the Red Coats, he said he wanted freedom for the colonies."

King continued, "What you've got to understand is in 1787, when they were trying to ratify the Constitution of the United States, a young man named Robert Sherman... he would not let them ratify the Constitution," leading to the Connecticut Compromise.

King went on, "The Connecticut Compromise was that Black people (were considered) 3/5 human beings. Now why do I mention that on this glorious week... because we have a 3/5 human being in the White House. King then urged elected officials to, "delete it, amend it or eradicate it," from the Constitution.

"The most important thing to understand," King continued, "Remember Iowa? 95.6% white. They set the tone, just as the Alamo... set the tone for Texas in 1835."

King shared a bizarre moment with City Councilman John C. Liu, in the first row of the packed hall, when a young color guard cadet tilted his weapon in the direction of the flair-haired promoter. King, who looked a lot like his old friend George W. Bush ducking the famous shoe-toss, quickly got out of harm's way. A minute later when the danger was over, King laughed off the incident.

At least one elderly man reported a shortness of breath before the end of King's speech and was rushed to a nearby hospital in stable condition.

According to one source at Councilman Seabrook's office, Paterson was originally scheduled to deliver the keynote address, but had backed out on the previous Friday, when King agreed to step in.

Olinville resident Effius Matthews was asked if she was disappointed that Governor Paterson skipped the event, Matthews replied, "No, and it's not nice that I say this, but the debacle with Carolyn Kennedy, regardless of what her personal problems were, the minute she withdrew from the race, should not have been exposed.":

Matthews said of King, "I was surprised. I didn't know he was so smart. All I've seen of him is promoting fights. I didn't know that he had such a message, and is so well informed of life in general. I was very impressed with him.

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Photos, top to bottom:

PHOTO 1: Don King laughs it off as New York City Councilman John Liu smirks after the incident.
PHOTO 2: The young cadet's rifle gets too close for comfort as promoter Don King ducks for cover.
PHOTO 3: The recently ousted King of the Bronx Democratic Party, Jose Rivera (left) greets Don King at the door.
PHOTO 4: Councilman John Liu (left) greets promoter Don King.
PHOTO 5; Controller Bill Thompson (left) has the ear of new Bronx Democratic Party Leader, Assemblyman Carl Haste.
PHOTO 6: Senator Charles Schumer (left) welcomes fellow speaker Don King.
PHOTO 7: Councilman Larry Seabrook (left) presents Don King with a special award.
PHOTO 8: Promoter Don King shares a moment with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
PHOTO 9: One guest reported chest pains after Don King's speech on equal rights, in Co op City on Saturday.

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