BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Celebration was observed at New Light Baptist Church on Monday, Jan. 21. The event attracted a larger audience than in recent years with more children attending, too. The program was hosted by Councilwoman Nina Davis.
“It’s fitting that we do this here,” she said of the observance. “I was born and raised in Montgomery, Ala., and Dr. King was familiar with many churches and that spirit is here.”
Davis brought attention to “a long year of service” for the MLK Day of Service Committee which had a goal of raising 5 tons of food. The committee had managed to raise 4 tons and Davis was hopeful the goal would be reached. She said that life’s most important question was what are you doing for others?
“Today is a celebration of that,” she said.
The theme of the celebration and doing for others, was paraphrased as “a knock at midnight,” words from a parable in the Gospel of Luke. The Rev. Ruth Boling, of the First Presbyterian Church, in her keynote address, talked about the parable. She said although prayer never enters it, prayer is essential to justice.
The story, she said, is about a poor man knocking on his rich neighbor’s door at midnight. The poor man needs bread, but the rich man does not want to be bothered. But the poor man persists until his needs are satisfied. “If midnight is a metaphor for desperation, for whom is it midnight now?” Boling asked.
Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, said he remembered the polarized conditions of society when King was assassinated. A former educator, he said it was tough to be a teacher then, but he was glad that people have become more accepting of each other over time.
Djanna Hill-Tall, chairwoman of the Bloomfield Civil Right Commission, gave out three essay awards. All the winners were Carteret Elementary School sixth-grade girls: Jasmine Munswami, Xiomaira Ramos and Angelina Sanchez. The competition was open to all Bloomfield District sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
Hill-Tall was given a community service award, as were husband and wife Steve and Lorajean Tice. The award was presented to them by Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill, D- 11th District. Councilman Nicholas Joanow received the Presidential Volunteer Award which came as a surprise to him. Joanow said if he were able to accomplish anything, it was not because of cooperation, not because of the “I,” but of the “we.”
Before the benediction by the Rev. Vernon Miller, of the New Light Baptist Church, its deacon, Robert Walker, said that the previous night he had gone to put out the trash and felt the terrible cold. He knew for a lot of people on such a night, it was midnight and he prayed that day would come.