We returned to an in-person observance this year which brought out hundreds of people to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The messages delivered by all were stirring calls to activism, volunteering, and making progress on the mission of racial integration, equity, and inclusion. The keynote speaker was Robt Martin Seda-Schreiber, chief activist at the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice in Princeton; Village President Sheena Collum, Mayor Dean Dafis spoke, Erin Scherzer and Kasia Piekarz from the Maplewood Community Board on Police, and CHS MAC scholar Melissa Dubuisson. The CHS Special Dance Co. and CHS Chorus performed.
Seda-Schreiber spoke about Bayard Rustin's contribution to Dr. King's work: “So many folks conveniently forget about him. Here he is raising up an early, powerful prototype of intersectionality some 20 years before Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term. Bayard Rustin planned the march, brought nonviolence to the movement, inspired the Freedom Riders and spoke truth to power. He was lost to history, edited out of the books and excised from the stories told because of who he loved and who he was, a queer black man embracing his identity and all his beautiful intersectionality.”
The observance closed with MAC Scholars leading kids down the aisles with their luminaries--all decorated with messages of peace and hope--to launch the community-wide Luminary Project for the evening.
There are so many people to thank who make this event so inspirational:
Columbia High School: Principal Frank Sanchez, CHS Chorus and Director Nicholas Diaz, Special Dance Company and Director Kandice Point-du-Jour, MAC Scholars, including Melissa Dubuisson and Director Marcia Hicks.
Program Participants: Robt Seda-Schreiber; South Orange Village President Sheena Collum; Maplewood Mayor Dean Dafis; Pastor Terry Richardson, First Baptist Church of South Orange.
MLK Planning Team &Volunteers: MLK Chair - Mark Mucci, Community Engagement Chair - Barbara Velazquez, Pastor Janice Lynn, Katy Cullen, Mikki Murphy, Alisa Aronson and Audrey Rowe.
Luminary Project Team: Jocelyn Ryan, Zoraida Michaud, Marty Remy, Rev. Liz Testa. We couldn't do this work without our neighborhood leads or our business partners, many of whom have been working with us since Patricia Canning started the project 10 years ago: Able Baker, [words] Bookstore, Sparkhouse Toys, Pet Wants, D&I Fitness, True Salvage Cafe, General Store Cooperative, Oh! Canary, A Paper Hat.
Thank you to our district preschools, Clinton 2nd grade, MAC Scholars, Greater Essex County Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc, and all the volunteers who helped to make kits. Enormous gratitude to South Orange Village President Sheena Collum, for being a champion of the Luminary Project since day one, and for hosting our decorating party along with Maplewood Mayor Dean Dafis. We truly appreciate the support of both leaders.