Last week, Clayton helped honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 50 years after the civil rights icon’s assassination, at a candlelight vigil in front of the Jackson Heights Post Office.
A visual and vocal artist, Clayton led a large crowd that sang, “We Shall Overcome.”
“What compelled me to come is just to keep the dream alive,” he said.
The commemoration has special meaning for Clayton’s family. His grandmother marched on Washington with Dr. King during the Civil Rights Movement.
“To me, it’s part of the baton being passed down,” he said, “not just to me, but to everyone who is a member of this country.”
Alongside his friend Shekar Krishnan, Clayton co-emcees an event every year at the Renaissance Charter School. The event celebrates Dr. King’s legacy, but it’s also a mitzvah day of service.
Krishnan, a local civic leader, helped organize the candlelight vigil, and joined Clayton to sing with the crowd.
Though he wasn’t alive when King was assassinated – Clayton was born in 1970 – the Bedford-Stuyvesant native said he was told it was “very somber moment.”
“It was a very sad day,” he said. “He wasn’t just one of us. Anyone whose blood is shed is one of us.”
The way Clayton sees it, no matter what race you are, everyone bleeds the same blood. Everyone is part of the human race, he said.
“I think we’ve come a long way as a people, and we still have a lot more to go,” he said. “But we can start right now.”