The Coalition on Race’s 12th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration included interfaith readings and reflections on Dr. King, professional jazz music, choral singing, and a fascinating keynote speech by Junius Williams. Director of the Abbott Institute in Newark, lawyer, scholar, writer, and talented musician, Mr. Williams wove all of his talents into the telling of his personal journey with the Civil Rights Movement. He described how he worked with SNCC in the “Battle of Montgomery” where he was part of a college delegation from Massachusetts. In those days he said he did not always agree with Dr. King’s approach to achieving social justice, but that he came to see its wisdom as his own social justice work expanded. He noted how important it is for us to remember Dr. King as the “drum major for justice.” Click here for a video of Mr. Williams’ address.
Junius Williams punctuated some of his commentary with freedom songs and had the entire audience singing and clapping with him. Part of his talk came from his book–coming out soon–called “Unfinished Agenda, Black Power from Jim Crow to Obama.” It is a memoir which documents his politics and adventures over the last 40 years. This is good news since his talk yesterday left many wanting to hear more.
Also part of the day’s presentation was a student essay written and read by CHS graduate and current Rutgers student Nyeshia Norris. She was the winner of the 2012 Educare Essay contest. Ms. Norris focused on her dream of a founding a social justice organization in the future to serve community needs.
Jazz music provided by the Bufford School Faculty Band, led by professional drummer Greg Bufford, filled the sanctuary throughout the observance. In special tribute to Dr. King, they played Dr. Billy Taylor’s “Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.” This was a favorite of Dr. King’s. In addition to the combined choirs of Voices in Harmony, First Baptist and Morrow Memorial, there was a special performance by the Genesis Voices , a young women’s group from First Baptist Church of South Orange.
The Observance was followed by the Volunteer Fair that included local organizations seeking future volunteers and to get the word out about their work. There were also ‘instant impact’ activities for those who wanted to do something that day. Rent Party Backpack Pals filled 100 backpacks with weekend necessities for local families in need; children worked on art projects for special needs students at Horizon School, donations of food for MEND and yarn for Emily’s Hats were collected, and more. Community giving was inspiring!
For more photos of the day’s events, visit PHOTOS: MLK Annual Interfaith Observance on Patch
and also click here.