"We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools." - Dr. Martin Luther King, March 22, 1964, St. Louis, Missouri.
A crowd of about 200 packed into the auditorium at the Monday night for "The Dream Continues," an interfaith salute celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, on what would have been his 83rd birthday.
The service, which was hosted by the Reverend James Thomas of the in Iselin and the Woodbridge Interfaith Community Council, celebrated the life and words of the slain civil rights leader. Thomas noted that on the weekend of what would have been his 83rd birthday, King "...would have been am elder statesman" of the equality movement, likely pleased with the progress made in the 44 years since his death, yet "still not satisfied with where we are yet as a people, one nation under God."
Councilman Kyle Anderson, Reverend Robert Boyar, Faith Longstreet, Margarita Estrada, and Peter Willoughby presented a verbal montage of King's words, including selections from the famous "I Have A Dream" speech as well as "Letters from a Birmingham Jail," among others. The varied ages, ethnicities, and walks of life of the five performers added additional power to King's already powerful words of unity.
Following a brief speech by Mayor John McCormac, the winner an essay contest on King presented his work. Chinaenye Ihekuna, a fifth grader at discussed his reaction to reading King's "Letters from a Birmingham Jail," noting that "...[King] wanted everyone to know you can get a serious message across without violence...it took a fearless person to do this job."
Imam Tamir Nasr, the spiritual leader of the in Fords, spoke briefly, discussing an Islamic appreciation for King's life and work. "When someone say Martin Luther King, I say 'No. Dr. Martin Luther King.' What makes him the way he is is the knowledge that he had," said Nasr. "Invest in education as much as you can. It's pricelesss."
Father William Smith of in Port Reading presented a personal perspective on the words and ideals of King, drawing parallels between life, religious leaders, and the theater, as well as sharing a personal story of his first understanding of the differences between people. Smith noted that "...the best way to fight against prejudice is to be gentle and respectful to each other," a sentiment that was woven throughout the evening's proceedings.
Other speakers included the Reverend Neva Lawson of the ; Sulakshana Parimi, a graduate student and member of the First Presbyterian Church of Iselin, and Peggy Catalano of The entertained with a variety of musical selections, including "God Bless America" and the moving "His Light Still Shines," a piece arranged by Moses Hogan about King.