BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Martin Luther King Jr. Day was celebrated on Monday, Jan. 18, at New Light Baptist Church. It was the 14th consecutive year the commemoration was held. The event was emceed by Bloomfield Councilwoman Wartyna Davis. The pastor of NLBC is the Rev. Vernon Miller.
In attendance were councilmen Nicholas Joanow, Joseph Lopez and Carlos Pomares, Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-28th District, and former Bloomfield Mayor Raymond McCarthy and his wife, Janet. It was unusual that no Bloomfield elected official stood up to speak on behalf of the mayor and council. Also different from recent years was that there appeared to be no representative from the Bloomfield Police Department. But Caputo did speak.
“What we need to do is invest in our youth,” he said, “especially on the state level where we fight for resources. The fight going on between public and charter schools is absurd.”
With about 60 people in attendance, Caputo said he has come to the last 12 MLK celebrations at New Light Baptist Church. He said it is not the biggest of events, but it is always warm and heartfelt.
Davis’ two children provided readings. Her daughter Tyna read an excerpt from King’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech; her son Tyler read an excerpt from King’s well-known, “Drum Major” statement. A musical selection was performed by Lauren Brown. King’s, “I Have a Dream,” speech was read by Isaiah London-Jones.
The inspirational message was sung, and shouted, by the Rev. Michael Jordan, of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church, in East Orange, who sometimes placed his mouth to microphone and gutturally inhaled, producing a brutally human sound.
“You’ll pardon me if I don’t mention King too much, but the King, our Lord and Savior,” Jordan began.
He selected Ezekiel, Chapter 37 — when God shows Ezekiel a valley of dry bones — for his exhortation to remain passionate about having faith in God. He said it was the job of their pastor to remind them by keeping blood in his own veins.
“‘Can these bones live?’” Jordan said God asked Ezekiel. “It’s a divine question. Can they live? Is there any chance?”
Jordan said Ezekiel began to understand what God was asking him. The bones represented the spiritually dead. Could they come back to life? Jordan wanted to know if many Americans were not the same way — spiritually dead.
“What is spiritual death?” he said. “It’s not in a medical report. A spiritual death is when you don’t respond to the spirit of God.”
Jordan said if Americans were asked if they believed in God, 90 percent would say yes.
“Suppose a man earns a living, has a good car, was never in jail, doesn’t use narcotics, but he doesn’t attend church,” Jordan said.
He said the bones God showed Ezekiel were the bones of nice people, too.
“That is why the pulpit must have relevancy in the 21st century,” he said. “You’re not serving a dead God.”
It was alright, he said, for people to have confidence in other people. But faith is something only for God. “Faith,” he said, was an acronym for “Forsake All, I Trust Him.”
“Can these bones live?” Jordan asked.
He said that God has a plan which makes nothing impossible and reminded people to never lose their faith.
There was at least one other observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Bloomfield. It was on Friday, Jan. 15.
Presented by the kindergarten grades at Fairview Elementary School, it included song, the spoken word and video clips, of children saying what they wanted to be when they grow up.
Principal Sal DeSimone said he was unsure when the annual observance began, guessing a dozen years ago.
Although the children did not have a black minister’s fire, their exhortations, sweetly given, were no less moving during the 30 minutes of a show for family and parents.
“You’ve heard the saying, ‘From the mouths of babes?’” DeSimone asked in his introduction. “Well, you’re going to get a lesson from the mouths of these babes. From these little teachers up here, you’re going to learn about this fine country. For me, this is one of the highlights of the year.”