PISCATAWAY, NJ – Community members gathered in the Piscataway Senior Center’s multipurpose room on Saturday morning to commemorate the life and legacy of civil rights leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who would have turned 88 on Sunday, Jan. 15th.
King, who led the charge for social justice and change during the modern civil rights movement of the late 1950s and 1960s, became known for his motivational speeches and for using various methods of nonviolent protests, community organizing and civil disobedience to help achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States.
The theme for Saturday’s breakfast was Next Generation of Dreamers giving a nod to King’s famous I Have a Dream speech given in 1963 during the historic March on Washington.
“Each year we recognize someone whose life is noteworthy of what Dr. King embodied,” said Brenda Smith of the township’s Civil Rights Advisory Commission which co-sponsored Saturday’s breakfast along with the North Stelton A.M.E. Church. “This year it is a young person, Ashton Burrell.”
In his keynote address, activist and motivational speaker, Ashton Burrell spoke about some of life’s lessons he learned as a college student and young person just starting out in the workforce, not initially understanding how some of his actions were sometimes viewed as negative behaviors, and others as positive, thus leading to new opportunities.
“We must love and support each other at all times,” said Burrell, the founder of The L.I.V.E. Mentorship program that teaches youth ages 9-19 about different cultures and different paths to take in life. “Get off the computers and into the communities to lead others.”
“Now isn’t the time to see who will lead you, but become the leader ourselves,” he said, explaining how the actions taken today can predict the actions of tomorrow.
Mayor Brian Wahler and Rev. Dr. Kenneth Saunders, the pastor of North Stelton A.M.E. Church spoke in appreciation of the work Burrell does in the community. Burrell is also the chair of the Highland Park Human Relations Commission and has led rallies and marches protesting social injustices in communities along the East Coast.
“The community is safe when we have young people like him,” said Saunders.
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