PISCATAWAY, NJ – “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Piscataway’s Civil Rights Advisory Commission and North Stelton A.M.E. Church Women’s Ministry presented their annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Breakfast at the Piscataway Senior Center, 700 Buena Vista Avenue on Saturday, January 16, 2016.
The theme for this year’s breakfast was “The Dream” and the Honorable Shanel Robinson, Franklin Township Councilwoman and member of North Stelton A.M.E. Church served as the program’s Mistress of Ceremonies.
“This is a day of celebration and a day of honor,” greeted Robinson. “We have good representation of our community at large which shows that we are enthusiastic about the life and vision of Dr. King.”
Renee Walker, also from North Stelton A.M.E. Church, led the opening hymn, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and later sang an inspirational rendition of Yolanda Adams’ song, “Never Give Up.”
Sister Brenda Smith of the Civil Rights Advisory Commission welcomed and thanked guests for attending the breakfast event.
The program’s religious observance opened with a prayer and blessing from Rev. Marlon Wilson, the pastor of Travelers Fellowship Community Church. Rev. Linwood Rouse, the pastor of Macedonia Freewill Baptist Church read a passage from the Old Testament, and Dr. Hubert Hartzler, Superintendant of Timothy Christian School shared scripture from the New Testament.
The program also included a tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech with a Litany led by Piscataway Councilwoman Camille Fernicola, and Councilwoman Robinson. A moving dance selection was performed by the Shirley A. Saunders Youth Liturgical Dance Ministry of North Stelton A.M.E. Church.
While guests enjoyed a full breakfast served by members of the Women’s Ministry at North Stelton A.M.E. Church, Amy Bauman, director of the Senior Center highlighted community events being hosted at the center next month by the Piscataway African American Senior Club.
The program’s keynote speaker was Piscataway Councilwoman Dr. Chanelle McCullum. She was introduced by her proud mother and Middlesex County Sheriff, the Honorable Mildred Scott.
“If Dr. King were alive today, I believe he would say to her that you are the right leader for this time,” Scott noted in her introduction of her daughter. “You inspire others as a leader who will carry on Dr. King’s work today.”
The message of McCullum’s address embraced “The Drum Major Instinct", one of Dr. King’s final sermons delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church on February 4, 1968, two months before his assassination on April 4, 1968.
“I am honored to speak here today and I would not be here as an elected township official if it had not been for the work of Dr. King,” said McCullum.
McCullum, a Piscataway resident for 33 years, shared several personal stories about how she, with the love and support of her parents, siblings, other family members, friends, and the community at large was able to live her life as a drum major.
Several members of the audience were moved to tears by the messages in her heartfelt and powerful keynote speech.
“A drum major leads with purpose and is part of something great,” said McCullum. “We should all have that ‘drum major instinct’, that desire to be important and to be recognized.”
McCullum also explained that Dr. King’s dream was not a selfish dream, and after reading a few lines of his famous “I Have a Dream Speech”, spoke of today’s grave reality.
“We have yet to fulfill this dream,” she said. “Social justice issues and civil rights violations are just as prevalent now as they were back then. We must take collective action and treat each other as we would want to be treated.”
McCullum also issued a call to action.
“We have to give back and support one another and surround ourselves with other drum majors,” she said in conclusion. These are “people who believe in and support you even when you don’t necessarily believe in yourself. What are you going to do now?”
Echoing the sentiments McCullum expressed, Rev. Dr. Kenneth L. Saunders Sr., pastor of North Stelton A.M.E. Church stated that we still have a “long road ahead and we must pick up the torch where Dr. King left off.”
Piscataway’s Mayor, the Honorable Brian C. Wahler, concurred with Pastor Saunders and expressed his gratitude to the residents and elected officials who attended including Congressman Frank Pallone.
“We can do better,” Pallone remarked, referencing a sentiment from President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address. “People believe in positive values.”
He told the audience that “we have to stay positive and move forward”, and closed with a quote from Dr. King. “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”