From the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race:
On Monday, January 21, the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race hosted the 18th 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, and closing remarks came from the Coalition on Race’s Chair, Robert A. Marchman.
Performances included the song “Glorious Peace” by the Maplewood Middle School Select Choir and the dance Glory (from the movie “Selma”), performed by CHS Special Dance Company, directed by Kandice 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 remarkably small amount of time Martin Luther King, Jr. lived; nonetheless, in 13 short years of public life, he changed the course of humanity across the world. She reminded attendees 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 the American 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 all should 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. Oliver 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, Trenesa Danuser and Liz Testa, the Luminary Project aimed to incorporate more voices from our youth. At 5:30 p.m., 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. After 6 p.m., residents lit their luminaries across the two towns and dozens 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