For MLK Day, CCR focuses on ‘Non-Violence in a Violent Time’

SOUTH ORANGE / MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Community Coalition on Race presents the 18th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Observance on Monday, Jan. 21, at 2 p.m. at Columbia High School, 17 Parker Ave. in Maplewood. The event is free and open to all.

Hundreds of SOMA residents and friends from neighboring communities are expected to gather to honor King through music, a sharing of interfaith readings, and an affirmation of King’s call to action and service. Following the celebration, there will be a reception and volunteer fair at 3:30 pm in the cafeteria. Donations of food pantry items, knitting yarn, old eyeglasses, children’s books and travel-sized toiletry donations are requested. Organizations interested in participating in the fair should contact the coalition office at 973-761-6116, ext. 4, or email

The keynote speaker will be N.J. Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, the first woman of color to serve in statewide elected office in New Jersey history. First elected to the General Assembly in 2003, she became speaker in 2010, becoming the first African-American woman in state history to serve as such and just the second in the nation’s history to lead a state legislative house. Oliver is a 40-year resident of East Orange and a native of Newark.

After the observance, join the SOMA Luminary Project! This is a great way to get everyone engaged in King’s vision of the “Beloved Community.” On the night Jan. 21, residents are asked to light up the outside of their home with luminaries, white bags with votive candles inside that can be decorated with images of King’s message of peace. More than 1,000 homes participated last year and the goal is to light up 2,000 places in 2019. The luminaries come four in a pack for a suggested donation of $10 and it is a fundraiser for the Coalition. Kits can be purchased at The Able Baker, Words Bookstore, Wine Barrel and Sparkhouse Toys.

This year, there will be a luminary decorating party for children, where they will learn the significance of MLK Day and be asked to decorate their luminaries in a creative way. This party will be Sunday, Jan. 13, from 3 to 5 p.m., at the Baird Community Center, 5 Mead St. in South Orange. For more information on purchasing luminary kits or the decorating event, visit or call 973-761-6116.