IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee hosted its 33rd annual Legacy of a Dream Commemorative Tribute to the Life and Work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Irvington High School Auditorium on Saturday, Jan. 13.
The committee presented the 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award to the team of husband-and-wife team of Kathy and Ralph Steele, who founded Irvington Pop Warner Golden Knights Football and Cheerleading. Irvington Democratic Committee Chairwoman Baseemah Beasley, who is also chairwoman of the MLK Commemorative Committee, and South Ward Councilwoman Sandy Jones presented the award to the Steeles.
“My husband asked me to speak, because he’s a man of few words and he knows, in order to lead a happy life is a happy wife,” Kathy Steele said when accepting the speech at the event. “We want to thank the committee for selecting us for what we do as a labor of love. Thirty years ago, I was fortunate for us to be here to work with the then Irvington visionary, the late and honorable D. Bilal Beasley. We, as a family, support the legacy and the memory of Dr. King, but we were also fortunate to have a local visionary who pushed that idea and that dream and it is why we’re here today.”
She proceeded to ask everyone in attendance to stand for a moment of silence, in honor of King and D. Bilal Beasley.
“I just want to say thank you. And you see why I have her do all the talking. She covers all of the bases,” said Ralph Steele on Saturday, Jan. 13. “I want to thank everybody for coming out and supporting me and my wife and the programs that we have going for Irvington. We do it for love and I love all you guys.”
Ralph Steele ended his remarks by making a pitch to all the children and parents who came to the ceremony, inviting them to become more involved with the Golden Knights.
“If you have youngsters between the ages of 5 and 15, bring them out to our program,” Ralph Steele said. “We have a new wrestling program we just started this year. It’s looking great. The kids will have a lot of fun and meet a lot of good people and we get to talk to them and really mentor them. So bring them out for the football program and to the wrestling program and the cheerleaders. I’ll be in trouble if I don’t say that.”
Afterward, the featured speaker, Christian Pentecostal Church Pastor Jerry Smith, made his remarks, sounding many of the same themes.
“I’m delighted to be on the platform with all these wonderful, amazing people,” Smith said. “I believe in Irvington. Do y’all believe in Irvington?”
Smith discussed why he accepted the MLK Commemorative Committee’s invitation to speak at the event.
“I come to talk this afternoon about the power of change and I hold this topic dear to my heart, because if God can change me, one who’s made many bad decisions and bad choices, and still be in the place where I am, he can change anybody,” Smith said. “As we think about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, when I think about change, I told my congregation that some people change when they see the light, others change when they feel the heat. Maya Angelou said: ‘If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change your attitude’ and I come just to talk for a few minutes to the young people this afternoon.”
Many of the young people Smith referred to are Irvington public school students who participated in the annual districtwide 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest. This year’s winners were as follows:
In third grade: first place, Phoenix Johnson of Mt. Vernon Avenue School; second place, Jayleesa Miranda of Grove Street School; and third place, Abbie Seepersad of Chancellor Avenue School. In fourth grade: first place, Ruth Adekuoroye of Grove Street School; second place, Mathew Robinson of Florence Avenue School; and third place, Sanaa Lino of Chancellor Avenue School. In fifth grade: first place, Kayla Caldwell of Madison Avenue School; second place, Josiah Johnson of Thurgood Marshall School; and third place, Rashanna James-Burks of Grove Street School. In sixth grade: first place, Delali Tsome of University Middle School; second place, Jayla Mercer of University Middle School; and third place, Ellen Alexis of Union Avenue Middle School. In seventh grade: first place, Tiffany Harris of University Middle School; second place, Symiya Cooper of Union Avenue Middle School. In eighth grade: first place, Khatleen Renaud of Union Avenue Middle School; second place, Monica Ifezue of University Middle School; and third place, Amya El-Amin of University Middle School. In ninth grade: first place, Reedgie Jean-Louis; second place, Neyssa Deriphonse; and third place, Daysha Blanton, all of Irvington High School. In 10th grade: first place, Tyra Powell and second place, Malayjah McBean. In 11th grade: first place, Jersey Ibe; second place, Kahelia Davis; and third place, Nerly T. Brevil. In 12th grade: first place, Debbie Pierre and second place, Jiair Bucknor.
“I’ve just come to the point that I don’t take nothing for granted and that we don’t really know what these young people are dealing with in their minds, because of what they see on television, through the Internet, what they see in school,” Smith said. “But I just come to encourage somebody that you have the power in you to make change.
“Martin Luther King said change does not roll on wheels of inevitability but comes through conscious, constant struggles. What I want you to focus more on in life is focus on your strength. Brothers and sisters, you got to learn to find strength in the midst of your struggle.”