LIVINGSTON, NJ — Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he addressed the crowd at the Livingston Committee for Diversity’s (LCD) MLK Day of Service on Monday, Mayor Shawn Klein said, “Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend.”

Volunteers of all ages joined the LCD in demonstrating this love on Monday as they made more than 600 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to be donated to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW), visited senior citizens at Inglemoor Rehabilitation & Care Center, assembled hygiene kits and more throughout the day.

For the first time this year, the Senior/Community Center served as home base for the event, which also included a special screening of “Selma,” a chronicle of Dr. King’s campaign to secure equal voting rights.

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“We had a very high turnout—lots of volunteers—and we really want to thank them for coming,” said LCD co-chair Susan Berkenbush. “We had boy scouts, girl scouts, families and people just coming in and volunteering, so it was a really nice day. The committee did a great job pulling it together and we’re looking forward to making it even better next year.”

In addition to the service projects mentioned above, the event also included collecting donations (specifically winter clothing, prom gowns and feminine hygiene products among others); vision and hearing screenings; kids coloring; and a blood and bone marrow drive at the West Essex YMCA.

During closing ceremonies, Mayor Klein and Rev. Dan Martian of the Presbyterian Church of Livingston reflected on the significance of the event before participants sang “We Shall Overcome” as they took a commemorative walk together.

In his closing remarks, Klein said he has enjoyed the wide variety of local cultural events throughout his years on the council, including Sanskriti dances, Chinese Culture Day, speeches at the town’s synagogues and more. However, he said when he looks around, there are not many “different” people at these events.

“In Livingston, even though we see people different from us each day, it’s unfortunately not very hard for some to get into a pattern of spending time with those to whom they are similar,” he said. “However, in a world of the alt-right and resurgent internet-enhanced racism, reaching out to those around us has become more and more important. We need to know each other and reinforce our common humanity. We need to advocate for each other and we need to love each other.” 

Once again quoting King, Klein said if those in the community remain at arms lengths, the community will be doomed to fall into the trap that King alluded to when he said, “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  

“We cannot afford to see the world as ‘us and them’ because it’s just ‘us’ here and we have too many big problems to face in this world to be stuck in that nonsense,” said Klein, adding that the community should look to its youth for example. “Once the different groups of well-meaning residents in the crowded places can learn to know and love each other a bit more, we will then have the even larger task of approaching those who see the world as ‘us and them’ and speak with hate. 

“But King has instructed us that we can win over them as well because as he said, ‘Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend.' And listen to King we must.”

Although the event has been held at Livingston High School in past years, Berkenbush said the event would likely be held at the Senior/Community again in the future.  

To learn more about the committee, contact Livingston_Diversity@verizon.net.