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Newark Celebrates MLK with Dance and Community Day

BY lyanne

MLK statute

In tribute to Martin Luther King holiday, we at Glocally were looking for community tributes around Newark and the greater Newark area.  The celebration this year were few in comparison to others years. However, there were several that were memorable, and we though it appropriate to share.  If you are aware of others celebrations, please let us know and we will include.  Friday, NJPAC brought to the stage, the Dance Theater of Harlem, in tribute to the founder of the company Arthur Mitchell and as apart of NJPAC Martin Luther King Celebration, which included this performance, and a family day of events on Saturday for families and children including a dance class workshop lead by Dance Theater of Harlem instructors.   We will report on the performance in the next coming days.

The Newark Museum featured in tribute to Martin Luther  King celebration, Celebrating Freedom and Community.  Visitors to the museum brought their families to be inspired!

12:30, 1:30, 2:30 & 3:30 pm
Film screening: Dr. King’s I Have a Dream Speech

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Arts and craft Workshop, “I Have A Dream”, where families created their own ideas of the dream and struggle.
2 pm Performance: Freedom Stories

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TAHIRA will share the stories and songs of freedom fighters who had the courage in the face of inequality and injustice.

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3:30 pm: Words of Inspiration–Lest We Forget
Guest speaker: Marcia W. Brown, Esq. Vice Chancellor for Student and Community Affairs, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Newark-campus.  Ms Brown through a slide presentation gave the audience a chronological path through the civil rights journey.  The presentation was vivid and showed the audiences the amount of violence and indignities African American suffered as they demanded fairness and equality.

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If you are looking for another event today, Essex County College, Africana Institute will be having a series of lectures of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Amiri Baraka, at 11:00 – 4:00 pm

For me personally, the most moving tribute came from Buster Soaries, as the key note speaker at NJPAC’s MLK tribute.  “It wont always be that way”.   

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Dr. DeForest “Buster” Soaries, Jr. is a minister, author and public advocate. He is the former Secretary of State of New Jersey and former chairman of the federal Election Assistance Commission. Additionally, he is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey, a position he has held since November 1990. In tribute of Martin Luther King holiday, Friday evening, Dr. Soaries gave a fiery speech at NJPAC prior to the performance of Arthur Mitchell Dance Theater.  Below is his speech, it was truly inspiring, hopefully its translation is equally powerful.   Harlem. We thought his powerful speech was a appropriate reflection for the meaning of the King holiday: My grandmother had move to New Jersey from Virginia.  So she would return back to Virginia for Weddings, birthdays and other important family events. In those day, we had a family car (one car for two to three generations), and we children would help our Grandmother pack her bags. So when I hugged my grandmother, before she left, I felt a shoebox in her hand. And it would always baffle me. You see, because we packed her her shoes in the suitcase. So one day when my grandmother was in another room, I snuck in to see what was in the shoebox. I was 9 years old and I could not believe what I saw. To my amazement it was food, three pieces of fried chicken, several pieced of white bread, and a four perfectly positioned hard-boil eggs strategically placed as if they were standing at attention. And next to the shoe- box was a peanut butter jar filled with Kool-Aid. When my grandmother returned, I got the courage to ask her, why she had the food in the shoe-box. The words she said to me that day still inspires me to be the best I can be and always stand for truth and justice. She said, “Every time we travel from New Jersey to Virginia. It take 6 hours to get to Virginia, no matter if we ate before we left we would get hungry. While traveling we could not stop”.

Back then, there were no McDonald’s, or Burger King, she said they wont serves us despite having money, and then she pointed down to the shoebox, she said “colored people (that’s what they called blacks then), they don’t serve color people, when we get hungry, we don’t have to stop the car, we go into the shoebox, and get something to eat”. But then she said something that brought tears to my eye. She said, “things won’t always be like this, Son they won’t always be this way. That’s the way things are but change is coming”. I could not figure out what she knew that would be different in my life. What was happening in world that would change this? She didn’t quote great writers or quoted verse from the bible, but based on her knowledge that there wear people marching in the streets. She knew change was coming. She believed intensely deep in her heart, She said, “in my son’s lifetime, and my grandson life God will bring about a change”. What she knew was that there were young people refusing to leave restaurants in North Carolina until they were served. There were people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, participating in non-violence protest, demanding a change in the treatment of black people. My grandmother died on her way coming back from Virginia one day, on the NJ turnpike, their car was hit, by a drunk driver and my grandmother was herald from the car, and died on the pavement along side of the highway.

She never saw her grandson graduate from college, after 6th grade teacher told him, he would never finish high school. She didn’t see live long enough to see African Americans reach political power, Amiri Baraka, move to change the leadership in Newark, and leading the way elect African Americans throughout the country. She didn’t live long to see new policies to inspire our nation, and teach them that some of us could speak English and congregate verbs. She didn’t live long enough to see her grandson that asked her about the shoebox become the first Black man to be secretary of state in New Jersey. Interesting turn of events, I began from running from the police to being chauffeured by them. But there is a god someone. I found my 6th grade teachers’ address and wrote her. The letter said, “ Dear Ma’am remember me, when you told me that I would not amount to anything , I wouldn’t finish high school, and wouldn’t go to college. Well, I finished high school, and have three degrees, and I am the secretary of state”. Now I tell you, despite all the progress, despite all the opportunities, and significant achievement made by Dr. King. It still frustrated me. Its frustrating because we now have the right to vote, but the black man in the Oval offices is still treated as if he’s still on the plantation. And its frustrating for People like King, Baraka, El-Malik Al-Shabazz, Nat Turner, Rosa Park, that died so in the by 21 century we would have the right to get dressed up and go downtown and look and act like somebody. They sacrificed everything they had to make life better for us, some have loss the fight. I am more frustrated because the forces of evil still are trying to put their feet on our back. And some of us are willing to let them put their foot on our backs. We want our young people to development and build their beautiful expression and artist genius tonight.

But remember one thing. The same discipline the same drive. The same determination that made Martin Luther King the leader he was, a high school graduate at 16, college graduate at 19, and PhD thereafter speaking with words and language that would inspire a world. Let them be inspired by people like Arthur Mitchell in 1965 through the ages that has had the drive and determination to rise above stereotypes, and be the best that they can be. There is a correlation between this artistic ability and what is needed in this 21st century in determining and outcome. Self determination and self realization, If know one respected King respected himself. So many young people are dying by gun violence in the streets every single week where its dangerous to live in Camden, Trenton, and most people that look like my children whined up dead not because of the klu klux klan or the tea party, but by someone that looks like them, and takes their life. No stop!! In the name of Martin Luther king Jr. pick up you head and walk tall. If nobody respects you, respect yourselves. I’m frustrated, when I see they spend more money on a stadium for sports then books for children. I am frustrated, when I see they pay an athlete in one year more then they pay a teacher in a lifetime. If Dr. King were here he too would be frustrated. We live in a nations that would spend over a quarter of a billion dollars to put machine on Mars to see pictures of rocks rather then find money to put people back to work. But I am not so frustrated that I am going to give up, but rather I will be an example for somebody. That is what Dr. King was for my grandmother. Someone will believe that the world can be transformed when we do what we do, and are what we are, and committed to making life better for the next generations then ourselves. Do something. I am always amazed to hear young people recite the old negro anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, everyone knows the first verse lyrics, but the third verse standout for today. God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way; Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light, Thou, lets us know there is something beyond us. Keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee. Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee. Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand, True to our God, true to our native land”. Let us never become so enamored by our might and so impressed by ourselves, that we get drunk by the wine of the world, that individual have died and sacrificed. So my brothers and sisters, I pray that tonight you will be inspired like never before, and that inspiration refuels you and encourages you to do something, in the community and in families, in making a different in the future just as Dr. King made for us.

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