WEST ORANGE, NJ – The West Orange Human Relations Commission presented its annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebratory event at the Life Christian Church on Monday. The program, entitled “A Foundation for Dreaming,” featured comments by Mayor Robert Parisi, musical performances, guest speaker Dr. Michael Reynolds, and recognition of West Orange residents for the embodiment of Dr. King’s spirit in their daily lives.
HRC Commissioner Patrecia West emceed the event, which was attended by residents, family, and friends of the honorees. Township council members Susan McCartney, Victor Cirilo, Jerry Guarino, Joe Krakoviak and Patty Spango were also present.
Parisi spoke of his parents, who grew up poor in Newark, yet taught their children to follow Dr. King’s dream to not judge others by the the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
“West Orange is a work in progress,” he noted. "I believe Dr. King would be pleased with what he saw, but we must move from being a 'diverse' community to 'one' community.”
Board of Education President Sandra Mordecai said that dreams do come true, but we “still have work to do.” She mentioned that Martin Luther King’s birthday has also become a “Day of Service” for organizations across the country.
Musical performances included West Orange High School student Andrew Scheib, who performed U2’s “In the Name of Love,” and the Howard Hall Trio, which performed “The Impossible Dream" and “Keep On Pushing.”
West Orange student Soham K. Bhatnagar read excerpts from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Guest Speaker, Dr. Michael Reynolds, Affiliated Professor of Practical Theology and Sociology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, discussed how phenotypes (the set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment) caused division between races. He said that the reality, however, is that genetically, we are all much more similar than we realize. DNA shows that we are 99.9% alike, and the .01% difference shows that we are actually closer genetically to races other than our own.
In referencing Dr. King, Dr. Reynolds noted “all men (really) are created equal.”
Local West Orange Residents Elaine and Edgar Bury, Dawn Christian and Jo-Ann Raines, Deiredra Oliver and Karien Ziegler were then recognized for their efforts to fulfill Dr. King’s dream in their daily lives, careers, and volunteer efforts.
To read about the honorees, click here.
Council President Sue McCartney shared news of the townwide picnic and street fair to be held along Main Street on June 7.
The event concluded with the Human Relations Commission’s announcement of its new initiative, “Living in our Diverse Communities,” a five-week workshop that will begin in late spring. Described by Councilman Victor Cirilo, the program is open to the community and residents are encouraged to sign up.
For more information on "Living in our Diverse Communities," visit the WOHRC website.