From the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race:
The South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race shares that the 6th Annual MLK Luminary Project raised more than $13,000 for the organization, which is $2,500 more donations than in 2018 as a result of close to 1,400 homes, businesses and local institutions participating by lighting luminaries. This initiative adds a new, dynamic layer to the community’s long-standing observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is now being imitated in neighboring towns like Chatham and Millburn. This year’s growth would not have been possible without the tremendous support from members of our community, from preschoolers at the Montrose School and MAC scholars from the high school to local businesses, who dedicated their time to making the Luminary Project bigger and better this year. The Beloved Community was truly embodied by both towns through our commitment to come together to reflect on King’s message.
In December, girl scout troops, Jack and Jill youth club and other local children volunteered to create hundreds of luminary kits for dissemination through neighborhood leaders and stores throughout our community. The number of retailers who participated across South Orange and Maplewood tripled, with kits available at D&I Fitness, True Salvage Cafe, The Able Baker, [words] Bookstore, Wine Barrel, Sparkhouse Toys, The Cassidy Bar + Kitchen, Kitchen Ala Mode, Sadie’s and Zen Pets. In addition, SOPAC and Seton Hall University participated for the first time this year.
“In its 6th year, the co-leaders Trenesa Danuser and Liz Testa and I aimed to incorporate more voices from our youth who represent Dr. King’s legacy. We also wanted to make certain that this celebration was intentionally representative of all aspects of our community, and so, including many more businesses, neighborhoods and now Seton Hall University and SOPAC was important to us.” said Patricia Matthews Canning, Luminary Project Co-Chair.
The first ever Luminary Decorating Party was held on January 13 at the Baird Community Center in South Orange. Girl scout troops and more than 30 families with enthusiastic children attended the event to decorate their luminary bags and learn more about Dr. King, all while eating pizza donated by Bunny’s restaurant in South Orange. After decorating, some children asked to approach the mic to read poetry and share words of hope and love that were written on their luminary bags. Romon Danuser, who initiated the “poetry share”, recited his poem again at the Lighting of the Luminaries ceremony on the evening of the observance.
At 5:30 pm on January 21, 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 MAC (Columbia’s Minority Achievement Community). 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. Student speakers included Sebastian Calderon, Jillian Canning, Jessica Canning, Dylan Danuser, Trevon Valentine, Romon Danuser and Aaron Allen.
After 6pm, residents lit their luminaries across the two towns and dozens shared their images of luminaries on social media using the hashtags #SOMALuminaries and #LetThereBeLight. A big thank you to Patricia Matthews Canning, Liz Testa, Trenesa Danuser, Marty Remy, Jocelyn Ryan and the whole Luminary Project team.