BLOOMFIELD, NJ – Bloomfield residents and local officials gathered for a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Reverend's legacy on Monday, January 20 at New Light Baptist Church.
The theme of the 18th
annual service, ‘Facing the Challenge of a New Era: Building a Community Through Love,’ featured remarks from clergy leaders and elected officials, including Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, Freeholder Carlos Pomares and Mayor Michael Venezia.
Councilwoman Wartyna Davis, organizer of the event and the driving force behind the township’s MLK Day of Service initiative, hosted the celebration.
“This celebration was started by Councilman Bernard Hamilton who served for seven years, and when I was elected to office, I had the pleasure of following in his footsteps, so this has been a pleasure of mine to do this for the last six years – every year gets more and more exciting,” said Councilwoman Davis. “It’s fitting that we hold this celebration at New Light Baptist Church. I’m originally from Montgomery, Alabama, and this church is much like Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where Martin Luther King began his ministry work.”
Davis then introduced Mayor Venezia to provide the opening greeting.
“Today is always a great day in Bloomfield and in America, and we here in Bloomfield try to do our part in recognizing the life of Dr. King and all that he did,” said Venezia. “This past Saturday (January 18), we did our annual Day of Service and it was really heartwarming to see the amount of community members and volunteers that were there. It really shows what type of community we have.”
Mayor Venezia and Councilwoman Davis presented the community service awards to James McDaniel, Debbie King Freeman and Melissa Santiago.
“Bloomfield is a very unique place in terms of the way that people treat each other,” said Assemblyman Caputo. “If you look at our schools, our kids are very supportive of one another in the spirit of Dr. King, and they try to be kind. The work that we do in the community is the basic of the fabric of our society.”
Freeholder Pomares also addressed the gathering, saying, “It’s been a wonderful week of reflection for me as earlier this week on Dr. King’s birthday, we honored him at the site of his statue in Essex County in Newark. That was very fitting because just behind that statue in the next couple of years the county will be opening a new facility to house a variety of courts. What better tribute to Dr. King than to name the House of Justice after him.”
Reverend John Rogers of the First Congregation Church of Montclair delivered the Keynote address. Deacon Robert Walker provided the closing remarks. Reverend Vernon Miller led the Benediction.
Dr. Djanna Hill-Tall, Chair of the Bloomfield Civil Rights Commission, presented awards to student essay contest winners in grades two through seven.
Also present at the gathering were Councilwoman Jenny Mundell, Councilman Nicholas Joanow, Councilwoman Sarah Cruz, Councilman Ted Gamble and Councilman Richard Rockwell.
The Township of Bloomfield began its annual community-focused Season of Giving on Thanksgiving, continuing through the Christmas Tree Lighting outside Town Hall, and wrapping up with Saturday’s Day of Service.
The Martin Luther King Day of Service Committee joined student and community volunteers in creating 1,200 hygiene kits for needy individuals. The committee also conducted three food drives collecting non-perishables for local pantries.
Bloomfield’s Day of Service initiative began in 2014.