WESTFIELD, NJ — “Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned the ultimate freedom: the freedom achieved in struggle; the freedom reached in brotherhood; the freedom fired by the dream of a man; the freedom inspired by the cry of a people; the freedom free of hate; the freedom full of love.”
Those were the words spoken Monday in the Litany delivered by Jaawell L. Faggins of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Westfield at the 30th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Commemoration Service.
In memory of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, a crowd of people of diverse religions and ethnicities gathered in Westfield for a march and service, hosted by the Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity.
The march began at 12:30 p.m. at the MLK monument on the town circle, then moved through downtown and ended at Holy Trinity. The march was led by a drummer and singer, followed by Major Andy Skibitsky, his wife Debbie and members of the Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Westfield NJ.
The packed service featured interfaith readings of passages with readings from Minister Kenneth Brown of Echo Lake Church of Christ, Reverend David C. Mertz of First Methodist Church of Christ, David Beckman of Temple Emanu-El and Said Mohammed El Kasaby and Samira Rasheed of the Islamic Center of Union County.
Keynote Speaker Andrew H. Lee, associate curator at New York University, spoke on MLK’s message that “We must keep going,” bringing up statistics on New Jersey’s continued racial disparity in areas such as health care and infant mortality.
Lee closed with this quote from Dr. King: “Let us be those creative dissenters who will call our beloved nation to a higher destiny, to a new plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humanness.”
Dolores Graves of the MLK Association then presented Lee with the organization’s Certificate of Appreciation.
“He spoke on the divide, he spoke on keep moving, and that’s some of Dr. King’s famous words,” Graves said. “We have to keep working hard, keep climbing the latter together, as brothers and sisters of the lord.”
Westfield School Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan honored the student winners of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay, Poetry and Art Contest.
From the intermediate schools, Mira Mehta (Edison) took first place in the essay category, Julian Hamilton (Roosevelt) took second, Justin Anderson (Edison) and Ava Pravlik (Edison) took third and Madeleine Ahalbeck (Holy Trinity) earned an honorable mention. In poetry, Isabele Allen (Holy Trinity) finished first, Catherine McGovern (Holy Trinity) second and Sabrina DiIorio (Holy Trinity) third. In art, Zaria Katz (Roosevelt) first, Kayla Turnoff (Roosevelt) second, Grace Greenwood (Roosevelt) third and Kelly Cushing (Holy Trinity) honorable mention.
From the elementary schools, Liam Morris (Jefferson) won first place in the essay category, Jessica Dong (Jefferson) won second, Kate I. Guglielmo (Jefferson) and Garrett Gao (Tamaques) won third and Sophia Marquet (Tamaques) earned an honorable mention. In poetry, Nikolas Regas (Franklin) finished first, Erin Doherty (Jefferson) second, Kavi Agnihotri (McKinley) third and Grace Filiberto (Franklin) received a honorable mention. In art, Emma Clark (Jefferson) finished first, Emma Jablonka (Wilson) second, Tamaques First Grade Classes third and Kaylie H. Gao (Franklin) and Charlie Jeckell (Franklin) honorable mentions.
Mayor Andy Skibitsky also gave remarks, congratulating the MLK Association on their 30th anniversary of the ceremony and offering a moment of silence to remember victims of hatred and bigotry from the past year.
“Thank you this invitation and the opportunity to participate in this wonderful expression of unity as we reflect on Dr. King’s persuasive and powerful words and his legacy of dignity, equality, and non-violence,” Skibitsky said.
Donell Carr, president of the Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr. Association, gave the final remarks.
“We have assembled here today, on this wonderful manifestation of brotherhood as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Carr said. “This is the perfect moment to consider the magnitude of the human family.”