Founder

Julius O. Pearse


Julius O. PJulius O. Pearseearse was born in the city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and raised on a farm in Marks Creek, Richmond County, North Carolina. He attended North Carolina's Agricultural and Technical College, and in 1953, he moved to Woodmere, New York.

In 1962, he became the first African American Police Officer, in the Village of Freeport. He was very active in the Civil Rights Movement in Nassau County, almost to the point of losing his job. But he prevailed, served 21 years, and retired in 1983.

With Charles Randall, a Freeport teacher, he fought the system, to create a girl's track team for the Bayview Avenue School. That effort ultimately led to the establishment of the first Freeport Recreation Center. He co-founded the Coalition for a Better

Freeport and in 1981, planned that group's first Dr. Martin Luther King Day celebration. (That was 2 years before it became a National holiday.)

In 1984, he met with, then, County Executive Frances Purcell, and the result was the first County-wide celebration in 1985. He presided over the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration Committee from 1985 until 2017. During that time, $300,000.00 was raised and distributed, as scholarships, to Nassau County high school students to defray tuition costs. He now serves as President Emeritus to the committee in an advisory capacity.

His interest in Genealogy led him to become a professional genealogist, in 1986, taking over the business of his mentor, Dr. James Rose, better known as Dr. Roots, from Hempstead. He saw that many people of color had no idea that they had a history that could be researched and documented. He then founded a not-for-profit organization, The African Atlantic Genealogical Society, better known as TAAGS. Through this organization, he assisted hundreds of families in their search for identity, family pride, and a place in history. He currently pursues his quest to expose "hidden history", and research "family history" for the community, at the African American Museum of Nassau County.

About Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King's philosophy of nonviolent civil disobedience changed the course of American and world history by graphically demonstrating that no person is free until we are free. The change that he inspired benefited all Americans. Dr. King dedicated his life to make a just society a reality and to free us from the bondage of prejudice and hatred. It was his belief that we must forever conduct our struggle for equality on the high plane of dignity and discipline.

Committee History

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration Committee of Nassau County Incorporated was originally called the "Martin Luther King Memorial Tribute to Black Achievers". It was voted into existence as a major program of the Coalition for a Better Freeport (CBF), under the administration of the late Eddie D. Monroe.

1981
Julius and Joysetta Pearse were tasked to author and direct the first celebration, held at Freeport High School on Sunday, January 18th, 1981.

James Miller (SUNY-Farmingdale) was the guest speaker and Mr. Jean Esquerre (Grumman Aerospace) paid tribute to Black Military Achievers. Church choirs from Bethel A.M.E. and Little Zion sang. Bernice Johnson's school provided dancers and noted composer and musician, Hale Smith performed his music. Two Freeport High School students received citations for their poetry submissions on the theme "I Had a Dream".

1982
Dr. Gerald Deas was the guest speaker at the celebration and American blues singer Bo Didley, Jr. performed. The first Martin Luther King scholarships were awarded to two poetry contest winners.

1983
CBF presented the program with guest speaker and celebrated genealogist, Dr. James Rose. Kay Barnes (of "Porgy and Bess) performed, and William Drayton (better known today as Flava Flav) sang and played piano.

1984
CBF expanded the planning committee to include other community based organizations and religious leaders of all faiths. When unresolved conflict arose from restraints placed on religious expression, all CBF members withdrew from the expanded committee.

Rather than let the concept of an inter-faith community celebration of the iconic Dr. King expire, Julius met with former County Executive Francis Purcell and presented the idea of a county-wide celebration. As a result, the Dr. Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration Committee of Nassau County, Inc. came to fruition. The lead Nassau County agency was the Commission on Human Rights with James Rice as the Executive Director and Board Member with Julius Pearse as President.

1986
First celebration event under the formation of the Dr. Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration Committee was held.

After thirty one years of service as President, Julius Pearse has become President Emeritus. He was recognized for his inspirational leadership at the 2017 Annual Awards Luncheon and will continue to lend his guidance upon the committee. Rodney McRae serves as our current President.

In the words of Dr. King, "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character is the goal of true education." Today, the MLK Celebration Committee is especially passionate about helping local young people reach for the highest heights, and realize their full potential.