NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ. – Monday afternoon’s celebration at Unity Square Community Center was about honoring the legacy of the most revered civil rights leader and one of New Brunswick’s favorite sons.
And, apparently, teaching their legacies to the next generation.
"Martin Luther King Jr. and Paul Robeson: Continuing Their Legacy" was a three-hour open house event.
This was the first time Unity Square hosted an event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the place was packed mostly with kids.
They helped put the finishing touches on a mural of King, wrote their dreams in journals, created buttons and visited informational exhibits accessed by QR codes.
Some bigger kids – members of the Iota Phi Theta fraternity – put on a dazzling step show.
It was fun and festive, but also reverential and respectful.
The organizers and community leaders in attendance said it was important to learn about unity, community and tolerance – just a few of the virtues that King and Robeson extolled.
“Your participation in today’s events and to learn and share is a tribute to Dr. King,” said Mayor Jim Cahill. “So, please enjoy yourselves today and remember that not only today but every day it’s all about community.”
“It's absolutely about teaching a new generation,” said Keisha Drabowski, assistant vice chancellor in Rutgers’ Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement. “I think more than anything, today's about service. When you think about where we are today, we have to get back to that place. We have to get back to that place of building community. Community happens through understanding, it happens through service. Martin Luther King has a quote that says, ‘Anyone can be great because anyone can serve.’ I truly think that's what today is and as you can see, I have my son here with me today because as a member of the Rutgers community, it's important that we're in Rutgers but we're part of Rutgers. I wanted my son to be here and be part of this serving and serving Rutgers because we are part of a bigger ecosystem.”
“First, we want the community to come in and we want the community to learn about each other,” said Jennifer Hinton, program director at Unity Square. “That's one thing. Just having all these young people here, working on this, working together. Just the fact that they are already in this building is a success.”