Thanks to all who organized, planned, & participated in this year's annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance, Fair, & Luminary Lighting! You are an inspiration to act according to Dr. King’s principles. Read more and see photos here…
On Monday, January 21, the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race hosted the 17th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance at Columbia High School in Maplewood. Hundreds of people of all ages filled the auditorium to honor Dr. King through music, dance, a sharing of interfaith readings and an affirmation of Dr. King’s call to action and service. Naresh Jain, Trustee Emeritus of Parliament of the World’s Religions, offered insight into non-violence and acceptance through the lens of the Jain religion. Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey Sheila Y. Oliver presented a poignant keynote on today’s root problem of ignorance, with closing remarks from the Coalition on Race’s Chair, Robert A. Marchman. Performances included “Glorious Peace” by the Maplewood Middle School Select Choir Symphonic Chorus and Glory (from the movie “Selma”), performed by CHS Special Dance Company directed by Kandice N. Point-Du-Jour. Afterwards the Volunteer Fair featured local community groups that provide opportunities to serve the community, including feeding the poor and mentoring young people.
Lt. Governor Oliver’s speech touched on the remarkable short amount of time Martin Luther King, Jr. lived and yet in 13 short years he changed the course of humanity across the world. She reminded us that Dr. King’s movement was based on several principles: moral power, non-violence, appeal to faith, a call to civil disobedience of unjust laws and a plea for full equality—persuasion versus coercion. The history of our social and civil rights movement in America grew out of faith leaders and their leadership as they fought against ignorance: the root of the violation of human, civil, and gender rights. Oliver noted we should all read the book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, by Dr. Joy DeGruy, who addresses the residual impacts of generations of slavery and discusses how the black community can use the strengths of the past to heal in the present. She shared, “One of the challenges that we have in combatting violence and moving everyone towards non-violence is teaching more people in our country that we must be accepting of all ideologies, even if we don’t agree with them. That is a very difficult thing to do, but I know we can do it.”
In its 6th year, co-led by Patricia Canning and Trenesa Danuser, the Luminary Project aimed to incorporate more voices from our youth. At 5:30 pm, South Orange and Maplewood neighbors gathered at the front entrance of Columbia High School for the second-annual Lighting of the Luminaries ceremony, supported by volunteers from Columbia’s Minority Achievement Committee (MAC). Children aged 7 to 17 shared what observing MLK Day meant to them through heartfelt speeches, songs and poetry among a circle of love and hope, created by community members and the illuminated Luminaries decorated by Pre-K students from Montrose School. Thousands of residents lit their luminaries across the two towns and dozens of shared their images of luminaries on social media using the hashtags #SOMALuminaries and #LetThereBeLight.
About the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race
The South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race is celebrating more than 20 years of being a nationally recognized non-profit organization committed to building a unique, suburban community that is free of racial segregation in housing patterns and community involvement. Recently featured in Dr. Beverly Tatum’s 2017 anniversary edition of her book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, the Coalition is often acknowledged as a model for the nation. It was founded in 1996 by a diverse group of citizens concerned about stagnating property values and a perceived decline in the quality of local public schools. Three key strategies were developed: promote strong and sustained robust demand by all racial groups for housing in every area of our community; build a community where the leadership of civic, governmental, business and community organizations is racially inclusive and values integration in policy and practice; and promote dialogue and understanding on race-related issues. To learn more, go to www.twotowns.org and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.