We must speak, we must act

SCOTT FRIEDMAN

Let us remember the 220,000 people of the noble nation of Haiti who were killed as a result of the earthquake that rocked that Caribbean nation eight years ago on Jan. 12.

Please applaud the Haitian people, and thank those among us of Haitian origin, for their many contributions to our country. Let’s remember with gratitude that Haitian soldiers fought alongside American patriots in our war for independence in 1779. Let us appreciate Haitian Americans like educator and civil rights pioneer Septima Poinsette Clark, acclaimed Broadway performer Josephine Mary Premice and award-winning author Edwidge Danticat.

North Brunswick is proud to be the home of people whose origins are in Haiti, and from the many African nations. We are honored that you have chosen to make this your home. The dignity, courage and character of your heritage make you valued residents and neighbors, and it our honor to call you “friend.”

On Jan. 12, we celebrated the magnificence, brilliance, courage and wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a remembrance ceremony. We did so gathered as a unified community. We beamed with pride at the voices of our children reciting – and beginning to comprehend – Dr. King’s beautiful “Dream” speech. We were moved by the talent and commitment reflected in the performances of our young adults. We honored people whose actions in our community bring Dr. King’s dream close to fulfillment. And we heard from learned speakers whose messages will inspire us and deepen our appreciation for the life of Dr. King.

Dr. King would never stand for 2017, or for the first days of 2018. There has been too much injustice, too much hatred, too much selfish greed. Dr. King would most assuredly hold the president and the Congress accountable for the things they have said and done, and also for those things they have not said and done. He would absolutely hold the leaders of our political parties responsible for placing petty interests over piety and principle. We know in our hearts he would also hold us – every single one of us – responsible. He would remind us that we each have an obligation to speak out for trust, and then to act. Dr. King would call us to act.

We all have an obligation to speak out. We cannot honor the memory of Dr. King if we remain silent. It doesn’t matter who you are, we all must all speak. Whatever might be the issue of fairness, justice and human decency that speaks to your mind and heart, we must speak and we must act.

Politicians, teachers, students, parents, children, persons from all walks of life – this is not a time to speak platitudes about Dr. King. It is the time to act. Now is our moment. Today is our history. Standing up for what we know to be right is our obligation.

Each of us must stand up for the equality with which God created us, for the rights that our Constitution has given us, and for the legacy that Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement has bestowed upon us. We must pledge, before almighty God and the memory of Dr. King, to find courage to stand and be counted, to speak and be heard, and to return to America to the path it once sought to follow in the dream of Dr. King.

Francis “Mac” Womack is the mayor of the Township of North Brunswick. He will submit a regular column to Newspaper Media Group.