It was an event that should not have to happen in the 21st century. The most diverse borough in the city should be beyond the religious bigotry and racism that has surfaced in recent weeks. But ignorance is still a powerful force in Queens, and for that reason we applaud the gathering of 30 religious and political leaders at Flushing Town Hall.
They came together Nov. 23 to sign “A Pledge for Tolerance & Understanding,” which calls for unity among people of all races, colors, nationalities and backgrounds. The meeting was prompted in part to condemn the painting of swastikas on libraries and religious institutions in Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst.
The meeting was organized by Michael Nussbaum, of the Jewish Community Relations Council, who said the document signed that night is based on the Flushing Remonstrance, a letter written in 1657 by Flushing residents to then-New Netherland Director General Peter Stuyvesant, condemning him for prohibiting Quakers to worship and from seeking religious freedom.
Hopefully, borough history teachers will see this as an opportunity to teach about a pivotal moment in the history of Queens and to remind students about the importance of tolerance. Sadly, we suspect many American history teachers do not even know about the Flushing Remonstrance.
The Rev. Floyd Flake, a former congressman and the leader of the Greater Allen AME Church in Jamaica, a man who has spent a lifetime fighting against racism, said, “We all come from the same root and we must all learn the power of tolerance.”
City Councilman Daniel Dromm, who represents the area where the attacks occurred and a man who has led the fight for gay rights in New York City, said, “Anytime hate crime happens, anytime swastikas are painted on the walls, it’s very important for the community to speak out.”
Other leaders at this gathering included Borough President Helen Marshall, District Attorney Richard Brown and Councilman Leroy Comrie.
The document they signed speaks more loudly than the graffiti sprayed by a bigot in the dark of night.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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