MONTCLAIR, NJ - Civil and human rights activist Lawrence Hamm, Chairman of the People's Organization For Progress, served as guest speaker at the 30th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday event hosted by Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Eta Pi Chapter on Saturday.
The fellowship hall of St. Paul's Baptist Church in Montclair was packed with attendees. Honorees included Albert Pelham for Community Service and Steve Pamon was given a MLK Spirit Recognition Award.
Guests were serenaded in between presentations by the uplifting sounds of the Montclair High School Madrigal Choir directed by Dr. Boyce Ennis. Mayor Robert Jackson, Councilors Renee Baskerville and Robert Russo were also in attendance.
Pelham, a Montclair resident, is the local leader of the Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation, the President of the Montclair NAACP and well-respected community leader.
Pamon, a graduate of Morehouse College and Stanford Business School, is a former JP Morgan Chase Executive, turned COO for Beyonce's management company, Parkwood Entertainment.
Hamm, a graduate of Princeton University and also a Montclair resident, delivered a fiery address to the crowd about voting rights, labor rights women's rights and an overall message of unity. He said, "We've got to have sense enough to come together to put aside our differences and unite and turn this thing out." Hamm went further to call for a massive voter registration drive statewide and for people in the room to get more involved.
Hamm has been an advocate for civil and human rights struggle for 45 years and founded the People's Organization For Progress (POP) over 33 years ago, according to his bio. The organization advocates for racial, social, economic justice and peace.
"If you have lived all of your life and you never stood for a cause that was unpopular, then you really haven't lived," Hamm added. "At the time Dr. King died, his popularity was at its lowest, ever. ...because he came out against the war in Vietnam and he came out against the capitalist system." Hamm quoted King and spoke of what were perceived as radical views as the reason for his assassination.
"Brothers and sisters, as we move ahead, let's unify, let's unite, let's get active, let's get from out in front of those televisions, take those ear plugs out and connect with other people," added Hamm. "We need change, we need justice, we need peace, we need democracy," he said as he closed.
At the end of his speech, Hamm was given a plaque by the organization.