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Service, equality emphasized at events held to commemorate King's legacy

More than 100 people jammed the lobby of City Hall on Friday afternoon to share the spirit of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- a legacy built on transforming society through service.

Over in Erie County Hall on Franklin Street, a judge in the Ceremonial Courtroom pledged to work toward the realization of King's dream of equality in the courts and society.

The City Hall activities included the swearing-in of dozens of new members of Buffalo AmeriCorps,as well as health screenings and the distribution of free toothbrushes.

Mayor Byron W. Brown presented awards to residents, organizations and businesses that have helped to serve the city. Some individuals have been active in serving young people and senior citizens.

Aitina Cooke, who intends to pursue a graduate degree at Buffalo State College, was honored for her poem, which she read to an appreciative audience.

"Service is contagious," she said. "It's motivating. It's loving. It's thinking outside the box and creating ideas that will touch the lives of everyone."

Across the nation, Monday will be observed as a Day of Service in honor of the slain civil rights leader.

The mayor is encouraging residents to perform 100 hours of volunteer service in the coming year to help "tackle the toughest problems facing our city -- from homelessness to crime."

During the 21st annual courthouse ceremony honoring King, Buffalo City Judge James A. W. McLeod bemoaned the lack of minority judges on the region's county and state courts. It is "time to stop honoring his dream" of racial equality in the courts and make it a reality, he said.

The Rev. Timothy J. Brown Sr., pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Niagara Falls, was keynote speaker for the event, sponsored by the Western New York coalition of Blacks in the Courts.

On the road toward racial equality, he conceded, "We still have a long way to go."

Justice Paula L. Feroleto, administrative judge of the state's Eighth Judicial District, pointed to last Saturday's deadly rampage in Tucson, Ariz., as evidence King's faith in the power of words to influence change never must be forgotten.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com and mgryta@buffnews.com

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