By David Cruz
Houses of worship across the state marked the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with commemorations and community service events. More than 300 congregants packed the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark for its annual King Day Celebration.
Pastor Perry Simmons has been leading this congregation for 30 years. He says Dr. King was never one to want a spotlight shone on him or his accomplishments. He preferred hard work to self-congratulation.
“He would’ve been in somebody’s pulpit, preaching, because that’s what he does, or he might be sitting down with the president or some other congressman talking about the movement,” said Pastor Simmons.
“He’d probably be talking about the high unemployment rate among blacks and Hispanics. I mean … the issues he was concerned about then, he would still be concerned about today.”
Dr. King would have been 83 years old this week. Mark Chaplin, like King a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, brought a check from his organization for Abyssinian’s scholarship fund.
“[Dr. King] would have mixed emotions, because he’d see the progress of things such as President Obama, and the fact that we’ve made progress in some areas,” he said, “but he’d also speak to the 99 percenters, and the people on Wall Street, because one of his last moves was economic empowerment.”
Those in attendance were united in their sense of hope, despite challenges faced by Newark, including poverty, crime and a sub standard educational system. They said that today’s struggles made tomorrow’s progress possible.