SOMERSET, NJ - Hundreds of key members of the community gathered Monday morning for one of the town's longest standing traditions, the 21st annual Franklin Township Community Breakfast at the DoubleTree Hotel.
The breakfast is held every year to bring the community together, honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and to raise scholarship money for local school students.
This year more than 450 people attended, according to MLK Community Foundation, President, Eva Nagy.
“I challenge any community in any state that brings so many people with so many diverse backgrounds together, breaking bread, sharing, celebrating and just spending time together,” Nagy said. "As I look out (into the crowd) it is truly a rainbow of faces and smiles, and that's the beauty of Franklin Township. But it is more than that, and we need to do more than to just come to a breakfast and share. We need actions, you know actions speak louder in words."
Nagy encouraged attendees to reach out to each other in ways in which they have never done before through meaningful actions.
Franklin Township Police Department (FTPD), Sgt. Sean Hebbon kicked off the breakfast as the master of ceremonies.
The Honor Gaurd, of the FTPD, performed "Presentation of Colors" ceremony, and Dr. Angela Bodino, RVCC professor sang the "Star Spangled Banner."
New Jersey Orators member, Demiladeiye (Demi) Osinubi received a standing ovation for his rendition of "Lord, Why Did You Make Me Black?"
Rabbi Eli Garfinkel of Temple Beth El led the offertory and dedication duties, and the Venerable Heenbunne Kondanna gave the invocation.
"The power of the 'I Have a Dream' speech is not in the words, instead the power came from Dr. King himself from his soul, from his heart, not his vocabulary," Garfinkel said.
Elected state, county, and local officials were in attendance and addressed the crowd, and spoke of ways to bring about positive change.
"You go back years ago, our school system was unfair there was segregation, black children and white children could not be educated together," Assm. Joe Danielsen (D-17) said. "So people demonstrated they shut down the school system that wasn't operating in a just manner. You see demonstration and protest is not an event for convenience, timing or schedule, it is about making wrong things right. It is stopping the norm that just is not right."
Somerset County Deputy Director Freeholder, Brian D. Levine said whenever any racism, or sexism is spotted anywhere, it should be called out and addressed immediately.
Mayor Phil Kramer yielded his time to speak, to the newly appointed Deputy Mayor, Shanel Robinson.
"Are you going to move on from this day throughout the rest of the year, to be the love and the light that we need so desperately in this day and age," Robinson said. "So do not leave here and come back next year just to have breakfast...but continue to live the legacy and carry out the dream that Dr. King set before us so long ago."
Newly appointed Board of Education President, Nancy Lacorte invited the public to get informed and involved with the Franklin Township School district.
Keynote speaker, Judge Raymond L. Bruce, Supreme Court Justice, Bronx County offered some advice to attendees.
"If someone tells you as an immigrant to 'go back home' politely tell them you are home," Bruce said. "Tell them in a nonviolent way you are here to stay, tell them you are going to your church or temple or synagogue, and tell them you are not afraid of his or their rhetoric. Today when people discuss religion all too often the haters or ne'er-do-wells focus on divisive measures. They do not understand that there are three monotheistic religions, Christians, Jews and Muslims that have much in common. Or Faiths have a commonality in Jesus Christ, Abraham, and Jeruselum...Dr. King championed the principals of equality and justice, so it's easy to see why the celebration of Dr. King, such as it is an all-inclusive event."
Rev. Tom J. Cully, of Mount Pleasant Church, performed the benediction and the Community Fellowship Mass Choir performed various musical selections, and closed out the program by leading attendees in "God Bless America."
Since 1998, 167 Franklin High School seniors have been awarded more than $175,000 in scholarships. Last year, for the 20th anniversary, 12 students were granted $20,000.
There is still time to donate to the scholarship fund either online at www.ftmlk.org or by mail to Franklin Township Dr. Martin Luther King Community Foundation (FTMLKCF) P.O. Box 5684 Somerset, New Jersey 08875.
Scholarship application submissions will start April 11, and shortly after the foundation will know how much money has been raised, and how many students will receive scholarships.
TAPinto Franklin Township is an independently owned and operated daily online newspaper by Malik A. Lyons FHS Class of 93’ Graduate.
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