34th annual MLK Legacy of a Dream event will still happen

Photo by Chris Sykes
Standing in front of the memorial plaque hanging on the wall in the Municipal Building lobby, honoring former Municipal Council President, Essex County Freeholder and Team Irvington co-founder D. Bilal Beasley, are, from left, at large Councilwoman October Hudley, Municipal Council Vice President Renee Burgess, West Ward Councilman Vern Cox, Mayor Tony Vauss, Essex County Freeholder and Team Irvington co-founder Lebby Jones, Beasley’s widow and Irvington Democratic Committee Chairwoman Baseemah Beasley, Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker and South Ward Councilwoman Sandy Jones on Saturday, Sept. 29. Lebby Jones died on Wednesday, Jan. 9.

IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Committee will be hosting its 34th 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. 19.

“The doors open at 1 p.m.,” said Omar Bilal Beasley on Monday, Jan. 14. “The program starts at 2 p.m.”

According to the event’s organizers, this year’s MLK Award honoree will be educator and businesswoman Diane Atwell and the guest speaker will be Latee Walton-McCleod, another educator and businesswoman. They also said they would incorporate a tribute to Essex County Freeholder, former at large Councilwoman and Team Irvington co-founder Lebby Jones, who died Wednesday, Jan. 9.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Beasley, the son of D. Bilal Beasley, Jones’ friend, political partner, former Essex County Freeholder, Municipal Council President and Team Irvington co-founder. “Lebby was one of the pioneers that started with my father, when they began to change the dynamics of Irvington. To have two pioneers pass away right behind one another, it’s hard to fill those shoes. But, hopefully, this current generation of politicians that they cultivated will be up to that task.”

Beasley also serves in the Garden State Grand Lodge Freemasons on Sanford Avenue, where the organization’s motto is “Making good men better.” This meshes with the values he said his father instilled in him and his siblings, Jamilah Beasley-McCleod and Akbar Butler. He also said his father and Jones instilled those same values in the Team Irvington organization, which has been succeeded by the new Team Irvington Strong organization.

“They incorporated lessons in them to lead this thing on to another plateau,” said Beasley. “First and foremost, Lebby was an educator and a humanitarian and she touched a lot of lives, even before she got into politics. No one person can fill those shoes. So we don’t mourn her, we celebrate the gift that she and my father, Bilal, were able to instill in this group of people that we call leaders.”

As always, the annual MLK event will feature performances by select choruses from the Irvington School District, in addition to a variety of live performances by students and the MLK Legacy of A Dream Essay Contest.

“No one knows when God is going to call you home,” Beasley said. “That’s why you never hold off on doing what you can do today until tomorrow. God called Lebby home. I don’t think that it was a coincidence that it happened right before our 34th annual Martin Luther King Legacy of a Dream event.”

Beasley said God doesn’t make mistakes, even when it means calling Jones home when there was still so much work left for her to do.

“Things happen for a reason,” he said. “Don’t let her work be in vain. My condolences to her family and I want to let them know that we’ll be here for them. There will be an acknowledgement at this year’s event.”