UNION, NJ – A Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. event celebrating his life and legacy and his famed “I Have A Dream” speech, with parts of the speech read by Union children, was held on Monday at Town Hall.
“Since the 60’s, African Americans have made dramatic gains in almost every arena,” said Union Mayor Michele Delisfort. “We are visible in every facet of America.” However, she said, a huge segment of the African American population have been left behind, the poverty rate in Black communities has not risen much and too many lives are threatened by inequalities and the divisiveness perpetuated in the White House, “which makes us feel a little vulnerable about the successes that we’ve made, like civil rights, voting rights and women’s rights.”
Kawameeh Middle School sixth-grader Navan Tony Hinton spoke to the assembled crowd about Martin Luther King, Jr. “Dr. King’s trait was so precious that lead him to skip not just one, but several grade levels, including his senior year of high school,” said Hinton. “He enrolled in Morehouse College at age 15 where he completed his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology.”
Hinton said after learning about Dr. King, he asked himself, “what will people remember about me when I am no longer here? What type of impact did I leave? How do we all work together?” Hinton continued, “I don’t know what my legacy will be but the more I learn about great leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, the sky’s the limit because a true leader has to learn from great leaders.”
Sydney Webb, 8, a Livingston Elementary School student also spoke to the crowd about what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. means to her. “Dr. King has done so much for us all,” she said. “Dr. King paved the way for both my grandparents. You can see, I have a mother who is West Indian from Trinidad and a father who is African American. My grandparents joined in the fight for freedom with Dr. King so they could give their children a better future.”
“Today, I celebrate you, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” continued Webb, “and thank you for big dreams because one day I will be that awesome soccer player on TV giving your speech. I will remind people to love one another, love different skin colors and enjoy different cultures.”
With a video of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech playing behind them, Union students Kayla Leann Ricketts, 11 (St. Rose of Lima School), Anthony Michael DiGirolamo, 11 (Jefferson School), Autumn Curry, 13 (Burnet Middle School), Kyle VanBeek, 12 (Burnet Middle School), and Grant Cooper, 13 (Burnet Middle School), alternately read portions of the speech.
“We’ll keep fighting for justice,” said State Senator Joseph Cryan. Cryan spoke of recent improvements to social justice, minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, sick leave, and economic and social justice laws. Speaking to the youngsters in the audience, Cryan said when they become adults and continue to fight for equality, they should "debate with reason, side with facts, but always, always with respect.”
Concluding the program, the Vauxhall Community Choir presented two songs.