Tributes, protests mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Selma’ screening, intergenerational discussion brings MLK’s message to the masses.

Oprah Winfrey and fellow actors from the movie “Selma” marched with hundreds in a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., one of many events around the nation ushering in Monday’s federal holiday for the slain civil rights leader.

Remembrances of the King legacy come amid somber reflection by many on incidents in which unarmed black men were killed by police in recent months, spurring protests and heightening tensions in the U.S. A special screening of the film “Selma” — which details the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama — preceded what organizers called “An intergenerational Conversation on Civil Rights in America, Past and Present.” Individuals as young as 10 and as old as 80, and from multiple cultural backgrounds, were in attendance at the event, which aimed to open a dialogue about civil rights between the generations.

Elected officials from Gloucester and Camden Counties joined educators, activists, attorneys and students to discuss “Selma,” the historic events depicted in the movie and the importance those events have on today. Hundreds joined Selma producer and star Oprah, director Ava DuVernay and leading men David Oyelowo and Common, among others, as they marked the 1965 protest that provided the backbone for the Oscar-nominated movie. It’s a positive experience for performers and a “It keeps a lot of kids out of the streets,” says Nisa Saud of the YMCA Lighthouse Project. “I know alot of people joined the Lighthouse Project that weren’t in a very good state of mind when they started.” “It keeps them out of trouble, and away from a lot of other bad things that are going on in their life,” adds her friend, Brionna Anderson.

The quartet and activists marched from Selma City Hall to the city’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, where civil rights protesters were beaten by police officers 50 years ago this year. But Americans should also remember his prescient warnings against economic inequality. “But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty and the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. Louis Democrat. “Not just in Ferguson, but over and over again across this country.” The King holiday, meanwhile, was being met with activities nationwide, including plans for a wreath-laying in Maryland, a tribute breakfast in Boston and volunteer service activities by churches and community groups in Illinois.

Sponsored by the Cherry Hill African American Civic Association, the Gloucester County Minority Coalition, Friends of Frank Minor, the South Jersey Black Political Caucus and When Black Women Gather, the intergenerational and interracial conversation aimed to bring experiences from multiple generations together. But it’s likely that he’d also be proud of the diversity of the crowd. “This is what life is all about,” the theater director concludes. “And especially here in East Liberty. During the discussion after the film, many talked about memories from that time period, stories they’ve heard from their own parents or grandparents and the need to share these stories with the youth. “We don’t do enough of carrying information and giving it to our ancestors and children,” said Roy Dawson, former Superintendent of Camden City Schools. “Voting is so important.

If we don’t vote, we have no control over anything.” Jay Phillips Sr., of Sicklerville, brought his 11 year old son, Jay Phillips Jr. to the event in order to continue his education regarding civil rights and what his ancestors went through in the mid twentieth century. The unemployment rate for African Americans between 2010 and 2012 was 15.7 percent — higher than any other group and double the rate of unemployment among Asians (7.3 percent) and white workers (7.4 percent). Raphael Warnock, said the annual King holiday is a time when “all of God’s children are busy spreading the message of freedom and justice.” On Monday, Oyelowo planned to deliver a holiday tribute to King at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where church members over the weekend sang the civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.” During Sunday’s march in Selma, Common and John Legend performed their Oscar-nominated song “Glory” from the film as marchers crested the top of the bridge as the sun set.

Before he was gunned down at age 39, King was beginning to speak more frequently about the lack of job opportunities and upward mobility for poor Americans. This included a legacy of handing out land in the West to white citizens while “telling the black man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” Today, far too many minorities are stuck in a cycle of poverty that transfers from one generation to the next. A child from a family in less-affluent South King County is less likely to access early childhood development programs than a kid in a wealthier neighborhood in Seattle. But, leaders, advocates and citizens must do something different to achieve his vision of a society where opportunity is not just a dream, but a right for all.

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