ORANGE, NJ — St. Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church on Oakwood Avenue in Orange hosted its first Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Remembrance ceremony at the church on Monday, Jan. 21.
The Rev. Regena L. Thomas was the keynote speaker at the inaugural event and the message she shared with North Ward Councilwoman Tency Eason, Mayor Dwayne Warren, at large Councilwoman Adrienne Wooten, East Orange businessman R.L. Scott, Pastor Melvin Johnson and the rest of the church’s congregation and invited guests was: “We have a situation.”
“I come here today and say, ‘We have a situation,’” said Thomas on Thursday, Jan. 17. “We find ourselves 31 days and folks have not gotten a check, and the president had the audacity to call folks back to work knowing they were not getting checks. We have a situation. We come here today to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, yet many of us will not do what he did. We come here to commemorate him, yet we will not do what he did.”
Johnson said Thomas’ message was timely and relevant in light of the U.S. government having been shut down for 31 days, due to the dispute between President Donald Trump and Congress over funding for a wall on the Mexican border. There are 800,000 federal employees who have technically been out of work and will remain that way until the president and Congress reach a deal.
Johnson agreed with Thomas that people are being hurt and that means the country really does “have a situation.”
“Now truer words, as we get ready to go today, have never been spoken. We are in a situation,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take all of us to come together to get through it.”
But Johnson said he was hopeful on MLK Day that King was right when he said the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” and that the government impasse would be resolved soon.
“One thing I’ve always learned is, whatever you’re going through, it came to pass,” said Johnson. “Trouble don’t last long. And we hasten trouble’s departure if we get out and vote.”
Warren agreed with Thomas and Johnson.
“St. Matthews is great because, every year, they do something in remembrance of Dr. King. Their congregation is based in the community and they make sure that they recognize his birthday every year,” said Warren on Thursday, Jan. 17. “But today’s message, ‘We have a situation,’ is most clear and poignant for out times. Rev. Thomas spoke from the pulpit about what we need to be doing right now, in our current situation.
“Whether you’re looking at education, economics; socially, we are in a situation and she gave us some keys on how to get out. We’ve got to get out the vote, we have to prepare ourselves, we have to work and invest in our own communities. These are the kinds of things we have to do to make sure we get into a better situation.”
Warren credited Eason with doing a great job as the mistress of ceremonies for the MLK Day Remembrance ceremony, saying, “That’s just how we do it in the city of Orange Township and at St. Matthew AME Church.”