MORRISTOWN, NJ – U.S. Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) and Denville resident Perri Easley spoke at the 35th annual Morris Interfaith Breakfast organized by the Martin Luther King Observance Committee on Mon., Jan. 20.
Easley, the first featured speaker of the morning, graduated from Morristown-Beard last year and currently attends Wesleyan University where she studies film and history with a minor in French. A recipient of a 2019 college scholarship from the Martin Luther King Scholarship Fund for Local Scholars, she grounded her remarks in a line from Dr. King’s “Strength in Love” speech:
“The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood [or sisterhood].”
Easley acknowledged that she eagerly accepted Dr. King’s challenge to help make a just and peaceful America for everyone.
“Like so many of my generation, I took for granted how I personally benefited from the hard-fought advancements that people of color, women and other marginalized groups have made,” Easley stated. “However, from my exposure to politics and activism, my eyes were opened to the inequalities that exist in our country and the work we must do to advance social progress.”
Easley then chronicled her résumé of social action since experiencing her epiphany, which included her two-term presidency of Morristown-Beard’s Social Justice Committee; creative expressions through videos, podcasts and articles; and advocacy of a variety of topics such as gun safety, LGBTQIA+ awareness and mental health.
Easley shared that she suffers from depression and wants to use her experience to help others and eradicate the stigma surrounding mental illness.
“We are very proud of Perri,” beamed Easley’s mother, Cheryl Easley. “Despite her struggles with depression, which manifested itself during her junior year of high school, Perri kept it all together.”
According to Cheryl Easley, her daughter is a staunch mental health advocate and can be seen in action on You Tube as last year’s youngest speaker at PeaceLove’s Peace of Mind storytellers event (at 2:16). At the event, mental health speakers, leaders and newcomers in the mental wellness space “share their mental health stories and the work they are doing to help create peace of mind in the world,” as stated in the You Tube video description.
“[W]e must never lose sight of the fact that we must take care of ourselves and prioritize our mental wellness if we would like to see our goals achieved,” encouraged Perri Easley.
As the keynote speaker of the morning, Rep. Sherrill spoke about the importance of remembering Dr. King’s legacy, and the work that remains ahead to build the “beloved community” in New Jersey. She quoted from a speech delivered by civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis in May 2016 at Washington University in St. Louis.
“You have a moral obligation, a mission, and a mandate to do your part. You must play a role, help to redeem the soul of America, help create a beloved America, a beloved world where no one is left out or left behind because of their race or their class. In the final analysis, we are one people. We are one family.”
“It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to find ways -- both large and small -- to bring that vision to fruition,” Rep. Sherrill encouraged.
After acknowledging the efforts of individuals in Morris County to help foster a beloved America, Rep. Sherrill urged breakfast attendees to help to protect the right to vote, fix the “broken criminal justice system,” improve the quality of life in New Jersey and get a complete census count for District 11 and New Jersey. She cited a number of actions she has taken to help to ameliorate the foregoing. She co-sponsored and voted for H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, and supported funding of a $550 million increase to Head Start, $55 million for New Jersey’s highway and transit infrastructure, and $40 million for a new investment in community colleges and eligible four-year partners through Strengthening Community College Training Grants. She also is working with colleagues on legislation to fix the criminal justice system.
Rep. Sherrill’s closing comment punctuated the manifestation of the progress and impact of the civil rights movement.
“One final note on the building in which I work: I’m proud to say that Rosa Parks now sits in the United States Capitol, her statue just off the House Floor. Dr. King stands resolved in the Rotunda of the Capitol. And Congressman Lewis walks alongside us in the halls of Congress. That is powerful. That is the legacy of the civil rights movement.”
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