By JENNIFER AMATO
NORTH BRUNSWICK – Filled with hopes and dreams of freedom, equality and peace, hundreds of residents filled the North Brunswick Municipal Building on Jan. 13 to spread the messages of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“As I look across the room this evening, I truly believe if Dr. Martin Luther King was observing all of us, his shared words on a painted canvas would reflect thoughts of a perfect collaboration: one of schools, the township and the community joining together in the belief of equality for all,” Lou Ann Benson, the director of the North Brunswick Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Services, said to begin the event.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance by North Brunswick Boy Scout Troop 18, the singing of “God Bless America” by the fifth grade choir from Parsons Elementary School and an invocation by the New Destiny Family Worship Center, Mayor Francis “Mac” Womack addressed the crowd with a spirit of togetherness.
“We should remember that this is not just an event at which we come and honor Dr. Martin Luther King and his legacy,” he said. “As we sit here tonight, with so much happening in our nation, transition that’s going on as it is, we have to remember that we’re here not just to honor Dr. King but to express the values of our community and to reinforce, all of us together, the values of our community, because that’s what makes us who we are, and that’s what makes us strong.”
Keynote speaker Erskine Glover expressed a need for both children and adults to be great, and for everyone to invest in their communities.
Glover is the assistant superintendent for the Newark Public School District, as well as an adjunct professor at Rutgers University-Newark where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in 21st-century urban education.
He holds degrees from the University of South Carolina, Temple University and the Teachers College at Columbia University. He has certifications in New Jersey in elementary education and school administration.
Locally, Glover is the vice president of the North Brunswick Travel Soccer Club and head coach for the boys’ travel soccer team. He also served on the North Brunswick Township High School (NBTHS) Soccer Parents Association, and was acting vice president from 2014-15.
In addition, he is a head basketball coach in Newark.
“A community like North Brunswick is a community I love investing in. I love working with children, no matter what aspect it’s in, whether on the soccer field, on the basketball courts, or a cake decorating contest. I love investing in our communities,” Glover said. “When you invest in your community, you love taking your children to the park where you can meet other people. When you invest in your community, you enjoy breaking bread with city councilmen and city councilwoman and understanding that their work is hard too. When you invest, you learn.”
To involve the youth of the community, Larissa McFall and Tolani Ogunyemi read the “Legacy of MLK,” followed by a short essay by Anisa Hamilton of the NBTHS Black Cultural Alliance, under the direction of Cathline Tanis.
Performances by New Destiny, directed by Juilenne Whitten and Steven Gable; plus the Bucket Brigade and the Pan Clan Crew, led by Marie Tashjian and Amy Schindler, entertained the crowd with music, singing and dancing.
The highlight of the evening came with the presentation of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Awards to Glover, the community recipient, and to Beverly E. Coleman, the school recipient.
Beverly E. Coleman is an instructional dean at Linwood Middle School whose expertise includes student management, instructional supervision and leadership practices for grades 6-8.
At the school, she is a member of PBIS (Positive Behavior In Schools), RIISA (Rutgers Institute for Improving Student Achievement), The Women’s and Men’s Leadership Conference sponsored by the North Brunswick Municipal Alliance, and the North Brunswick School District’s Cultural Awareness Program.
Coleman worked in the East Orange School District as a job developer for the East Orange New Jersey Youth Corps Program for at-risk students. While in East Orange, she also taught science and technology at Fourth Avenue Elementary School.
She went on to teach science at Hedgepath Williams Middle School in Trenton.
Coleman joined the North Brunswick School District in 2003. Her teaching specialties are science and language arts.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a master’s degree in education, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and counseling.
“In the words of Dr. King, the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education,” Coleman said. “It is through education that we build desire, discipline and dedication that leads to success.”
Livingston Park Elementary School third graders then reenacted King’s infamous “I Have a Dream” and “Free At Last” speeches, followed by a video by Livingston Park students.
The program ended with “Sing for Peace” by the Parsons fifth grade choir.
In addition, the New Destiny Family Worship Center held a scholarship brunch on Jan. 15 to assist scholarships for graduating NBTHS seniors.
Contact Jennifer Amato at email@example.com.