The Summit Interfaith Council in Summit, New Jersey is hosting a special MLK Day event on Monday, January 18.
Two members of the Council, President Rabbi Hannah Orden of Congregation Beth Hatikvah and Vice President Rev. Vernon Williams, Assistant Pastor of Fountain Baptist Church joined WBGO News Director Doug Doyle for a zoom chat about their plans and the need for more education about the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rabbi Orden says the Council felt it was important for people to come together in some way in person, so they planned another car procession, but this time it will different.
"We did a car procession last summer as part of the protest and demonstration that happened after George Floyd was killed. It was a memorial procession at the time. We had cars going past all the houses of worship in Summit with photos of people, black people who had been killed by police. So we came up with this idea to do another version of a car profession because it's very powerful, even if you're in your cars, it's powerful to see there are so many people who think this is important."
Rabbi Orden says people should gather in Summit High School parking lot. We're asking people to arrive between 2 and 2:15. A short virtual prgoram will start at 2:30 before the car procession.
"This procession is going to be different because what we've created is posters in front of each houses of worship and they are going to alternate between quotes from Dr. King with photos from the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950's and 60's. Alternating with that will be action steps that we can take today to further racial justice as well as photographs and visual images of things that are happening today."
Rev. Williams agrees racial tensions are high now but thinks the country has always been divided.
"As an African-American it's been difficult to see when this country has not been divided. It's just perhaps it's been more cloaked at other times and now it is more visible and open. I do think, however, that gives us the opportunity to begin to work on the issue versus continuing to bury our heads in the sand. It is important for the houses of worship to really be involved and to look it it from a faith perspective. Here in Summit, we are seeking as the Interfaith Council to come together as a faith community to say that what is going on in the country is not right, we are divided, and we have to work positively affect change."
Rev. Williams stresses there is not enough being taught and shared about Dr. King.
"Not enough depth of study is going into who he truly was and what he was truly about. You don't hear about his speech at Riverside Church on the Vietnam War issue. You don't hear him speaking out about poverty as he did. He was listed as one of the most dangerous men in America. We don't talk about that. We sanitize him posthumously and so the education of who Dr. King is, is watered down. And so in Summit we have tried in the last several years to really try to make the day more impactful."
Rabbi Orden says they're selected five different categories of actions they want to promote.
"Those are eliminating the achievement gap in education, voting rights, criminal justice reform, equitable policing and the last one is the Poor People's Campaign and addressing issues of poverty and hunger."
Both Rabbi Orden and Rev. Williams say during the coronavirus pandemic they've been able to increase the number of people getting involved through virtual services and programs. Fountain Baptist Church does livestream.
"We are perhaps reaching even more people by the livestream so that has been somewhat of a benefit to us."
Rabbi Orden agrees.
"I've been actually surprised at how much we've been able to online during COVID. My congregation is doing Zoom participatory services. We have been able to keep our communities together.
Click above to hear the entire conversation about Monday's event in Summit. You can view the Zoom chat here.